The strait of Gibraltar separates mainland Spain from Morocco and mainland Africa. At its narrowest point it is only 7.7 nautical miles. Crossing the strait or going through the strait requires an understanding of how that narrow stretch of ocean is affected by wind, tidal stream, tidal current and swell. This becomes a complex combination of factors to deal with, as all my sailing instructor friends will agree.


There is a constant West to East stream running through the Strait and into the Mediterranean to combat the water loss by evaporation. This varies in strength depending on how close to the shore you are, it’s much faster by the coast and less strong in the middle. It basically turns the strait into a giant conveyor belt, which you must board at the right time or else you won’t make any progress in any direction.


We timed our exit from Puerto de Conil in order to get on the conveyor at the right time, especially seeing as we only have about 8knots of wind (enough to just about fill the sails but not enough to keep passage speed). It’s a beautiful day for it and we round Cape Trafalgar with the sails goose-winged. This is when your mainsail is up and fully out on one side of the boat and your headsail is on the other side, held out by a pole. It feels regal, and magnificent, as if you are displaying all your sails for all to see.


We get closer and closer to Tarifa and the wind starts to slowly creep up 10 or 11knots. I warn James about Tarifa: I know it already as a surfing mecca, wild and windswept, famous for winds of 30knots for 300 days of the year. We have learned from past experience to beware climbing winds when on a dead run (sailing downwind goose-wing fashion) so we are on our guard. But, with Tarifa on our beam, the sun sets, the tidal stream stops and the wind dies, all at the same time! “Um, wild and windy Tarifa?” James says to me with an eyebrow raised.


The tide, in fairness, seemed to have a minor pause and picks up again but the wind is definitely gone, so we take down the pole, pin in the main, and watch the stars come out as we switch to nighttime mode of distinguishing the lights of all the tankers in the strait.


Slowly, slowly, we enter the Bay of Gibraltar, our goal after 6 weeks out of Falmouth. Everything is lights, shorelights, street lights, lighthouses, tankers, fishing vessels and ferries. We weave our way through it all to La Linea, our Spanish anchorage for the night before our move into a Gibraltarian marina. 1134 miles after our home berth at Mylor, we are at our new home for the next couple of weeks. Anchor is dropped, instruments turned off, log is closed. November 16th, we are here.