Sailing the Strait of Gibraltar
January 1, 1970
- Ceuta (Spanish Morocco)
- August – Hottest month, averaging 25°C
- January – Coolest month, averaging a mild 14°C
We travelled in August can be very hot when venturing inland, however out on the water the wind tends to cool you down and you don’t notice the heat of the sun.
Strait of Gibraltar
The strait of Gibraltar is a narrow stretch of water joining the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea, it separates Spain and Gibraltar from the most northern African country, Morocco, and the Spanish city of Ceuta which borders Morocco. At the narrowest point it is a short distance of 7.7 nautical miles ( 8.9 miles).
Its very unique tidal habits cause there to be a constant flow of water entering and exiting the Mediterranean, the water flowing from the Atlantic is of a lower salinity level (less saltier) than the water exiting the Mediterranean, therefore it is less dense and flows on the surface, this means that sailing the strait you have to take into account the eastbound flow of water, on top of that you need to think about the ordinary tidal force. For example it could be a strong flowing tide however it is almost cancelled out due to the counteracting flow of water.
The strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and works quite organised by having one lane of inbound traffic, and one lane of outbound traffic, as if it were a road. When sailing across the strait you would try to cross at a right angle to the flow of traffic, this way you would be out of the way of the fast moving tankers as quick as you can as they really do move VERY QUICKLY. On the crossing we checked compass bearings of the giant ships to ensure we were not on a collision course with them, if we were, we moved out of their way!
Gibraltar itself is a small British overseas territory bordering Spain. It is a relatively popular tourist destination and can be quite busy in the height of summer with mostly tourists from the UK. The most exciting attraction would have to be the monkeys. The monkeys are fed at the top of the Gibraltar rock so that they are encouraged to stay away from the towns and houses, as they can be real pests. They have been known to leave rather large messes behind them after searching for food and can even become violent when they feel threatened, especially the larger male monkeys, which can come across very intimidating.
Where To Stay In Gibraltar
You have a choice of three marinas in Gibraltar, Marina Bay, Ocean Village and the one we stayed at Queensway Quay. Which was close to town, where there were plenty of shops and a courtyard with restaurants and bars, only a short walk to the cable car where there are also plenty of taxis waiting to give you tours, just be careful of scams and be sure to try to bargain the price down if you can. There were restaurants and a few bars overlooking the marina, of which most have wifi and air conditioning. The marina itself was fairly modern and had facilities on the promenade. The gates into the marina were good as they used a keypad lock where you just had to remember the code, this is good as it provides more security for you and your belongings left on your boat, however if you tend to be a little forgetfull you might want to keep the code written down in your pocket.
What To Do In Gibraltar
You can get a cable car or taxi to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar where you could easily spend a whole day doing the following:
- Apes Den – get up close and personal with only wild primates in Europe
- St Michael Cave – see the incredible limestone caves for a small entrance fee
- Stand on the Top of the Gibraltar Rock – see Africa in the distance among the many views
- Walk down the very many steps.
The cable car will only work if the wind isn’t too strong, and if they close the cable car there is only a narrow road down to the town which will be blocked as everyone is trying to get a taxi back down or up. This is what happened to us and as we had a plane to catch in a few hours we didn’t have time to stand around waiting to get a taxi down. So we walked to the bottom, it was an incredible view and a stunning experience i would recommend it to everyone, we saw more monkeys on the way and when you reach the bottom you can enjoy a well deserved drink and a bite to eat in the town centre. If you get the chance to walk down the rock please do, as it is truly amazing, also you will save a little money, plus its a lot more enjoyable than walking up!
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Puerto De Ceuta, which was a small marina, less modern than the Queensway Quay with simple facilities and no security it was just a chain across the entrance. However as you walk away from the marina you find a modern high street with all the latest shops and restaurants, it felt like quite a busy city centre.
What To Do In Ceuta
It was mostly locals filling the beaches and the bars which is refreshing after being submerged in a typical British holiday destination. I would recommend to go and see the Royal Walls of Ceuta. You can walk up the ramp and gaze into distant beautiful scenery, alternatively you can visit in the evening and enjoy the shimmering lights of the water all around after dinner and a few beverages at one of the few restaurants in the courtyard.
If your looking to go for a dip in the sea its a only short 5-10 minute walk to the beach from the marina to the southern coastline of Ceuta. If the beach isn’t to your liking there are also a few large swimming pools next to the casino only a few minutes walk from the road, packed with locals. Among the multiple pools there is a giant family pool with children splashing around enjoying the sun, next door there is a pool lined with palm trees, a bar in the middle and music playing, with such an exotic energetic atmosphere you quickly forget how cold the water is, and this only costs you a few euros for the whole day.
Not long after leaving Ceuta to sail back across the strait we were engulfed in a thick blanket of fog, we couldn’t see anything around us, which I must admit as a small sailing vessel is a bit scary when there are big tanker ships travelling at such high speeds around us. Nonetheless we continued blaring out a few fog horns every now and then and soon the fog lifted and we had safely made our way across the channel. It is quite common for the strait to have fog banks, especially on the calm summer days, due to the cold breezes passing over the warmer water. these times are when it becomes extremely important to have an AIS receiver (Automatic Identification System) so that the larger ships can see you as for them its difficult to see you in the day with good visibility, let alone in the fog.
Again a very touristy destination I feel, however the marina was secure and the facilities were pleasantly modern. Restaurants, bars and shops lined the promenade and the beach was only a short walk, so everything you needed was close by. In August we witnessed a Sardine Festival which included free drinks and fish, there was music playing and a few fairground rides for kids to enjoy. Throughout the day we saw racks with sardines pegged up drying ready for the evenings festivities.
Sunrise At Sea
We set sail from Estepona earlier than sunrise to follow the light-filled coastline until the sun started to rise and it was an astonishing sunrise, the vivid rays of light shot in all directions, and a warm glow slowly grew on the horizon, then it was daylight and we had a beautiful breeze carrying us over the deep blue sea towards the protruding Rock of Gibraltar. Only one thing could make that morning more magical – Dolphins! Not the first time we had come across the majestic creatures on our journey, but most memorable as they followed us and kept us company as the sun lifted. You will likely see dolphins swimming around and jumping out if the water.
Ending a Perfect Week
To finish off our holiday we anchored off of Playa De Getares for a dip in the sea to cool off, it was a good anchorage just across the bay from Gibraltar, it was away from all the traffic of the main bay, the beach was very busy and there were plenty of holidaa makers wizzing around on jet skis. The water was a shock to jump into but warmed up after a moment.