Now we have a good weather window with a stern wind towards the Strait of Gibraltar and we have been to IKEA and shopped. So we are ready to continue towards the Mediterranean. We leave Vilamoura on Thursday morning, October 21, and set course for Tarifa where we expect to arrive in the early morning to have daylight as we pass through the Strait of Gibraltar.
We get a nice sailing from Vilamoura in 10-15 knots wind from the north. We see some ships south of our course and outside Huelva and Cadiz we meet some cargo boats on their way in or out of those ports. During the night, the fishing boats appear when they start driving with their trawls along the coast. Most fishing boats stay just inside us, but quite close, so we have to keep a good eye out because not everyone has a working AIS.
When the sun starts to rise, we have reached the strait and can see how the water changes appearance a few nautical miles in front of us. It is a sharp boundary and we understand that this is where the waves from the Atlantic meet the current in the Strait of Gibraltar and short and steep waves form. It is lucky that there are only small waves today, otherwise, it could have been a little more difficult to pass.
I have read that water always flows into the Mediterranean because of evaporation in the eastern Mediterranean, so the water surface in the Mediterranean is lower than in the Atlantic. However, the tide means that there is a current out of the strait for shorter periods during the day, as now.
When we go through the strait, we use a route near the Spanish coast (about 1 nautical mile out). In that way, we get a weaker current and avoid the shipping lane. We have at most 2 knots of current against us and the passage of the strait takes about 2 hours until we can sail in behind the high Gibraltar cliff and get through the stream of ships to and from the ports around the bay inside of the cliff. The shipyard is full of anchored vessels, some transfer oil to smaller vessels, others are under maintenance and some may be waiting for a place at the quay.
We have planned to dock at Alcadeisa Marina, but it is blowing hard, 25 knots and more, and wind and waves are pushing hard against the arrival quay. The guest places are also exposed to strong crosswinds, so we are hesitant about what to do. Anchor outside the port or sail on to Estepona?
We anchor and have a cup of coffee while we think. It’s early in the day and it’s about 25 nautical miles to Estepona so we can get there before evening.
Up with the anchor and we continue towards Estepona. Around the Gibraltar cliff, the wind strengthens and we have to start with reefed mainsail and cutter. It is a fast sailing to Estepona and luckily they have a place available for our boat size.
It blew a lot when we were docking and I needed to use the bow thrusters for quite some time. This is the first time I experience that it does not have the strength to move the bow sideways in strong winds and this means that we have problems with the docking and get some damage to the transom when the boat comes to the quay. When this happens, we do not know that the batteries for the bow thruster are in poor condition, and it will be another month or so before I realize it.
As compensation for the damages, we are welcomed with a bottle of wine when we check in.
Estepona turns out to be a place we like and it does not matter that we need to stay longer than expected because the weather is not suitable for sailing east. More about Estepona and excursions to Andalucia’s white villages in the next blog.