25 November We departed Gibraltar just after 7:00am, it was still dark but we were trying to get the right tide for our 18 mile passage to Tarifa. Tarifa is a small harbour and marina on the bottom of the Spanish Coast, and supposedly a good place to exit the Gibraltar Straights and to wait for a weather window to head to Morocco or the Canary Islands. The Gibraltar Straights are a complex system of tides, wind and currents. When heading west you can spend hours trying to make the passage if the tide and currents are against you. Only 8 miles separate Europe and Africa at the narrowest point in the Straight. The water at the western end of the 30 mile straight is 2-3 metres higher than at the Eastern end, thus causing a constant surface flow into the Med. There are very little or no tides in the Med, however Morocco has spring tides of 3 metres. Currents vary greatly in the straights and one minute we were cruising at 6 knots and then it would drop to 4 knots. There were lots of eddies and tide anomalies but it wasn’t so bad.
Around 11:00am We entered the Tarifa port, Starlet were a few minutes ahead of us. As we were entering a huge Ferry roared up behind us and he sat on his horn to tell us to get out of his way. Nice – really good for the nerves! Once we got into the Port we actually got directed to tie up on the high concrete walls, but only for a few minutes. The Port Policia came along and told us we had to move to the other side of the port.
We had to wait for the big Tarifa to Tangier Ferry to depart before we could move but where they wanted us to tie up was right in the entrance of the port against a concrete wall, the ferries roar in and out all day so we decided against that. We moved to just outside the Port entrance, near a rock wall leading into the port. Not an ideal anchorage but the weather was not good enough to continue at this stage.
We dropped anchor, and we put out the Flopper Stoppers as it was so roly. We were in 5metres of water and not very far off the very rocky shoreline.
Mark and Jennifer came over and I cooked roast chicken, for the first time in the Convection Oven. I was very surprised at how well it turned out. I always use the main oven but we have to run the generator to use it which is a real pain. It’s because the boats main power source is USA 60 hertz and some of the big appliances are 50 hertz, so we have to run the generator. So it will be a good habit to use the convection oven rather than the big main oven, especially for the Atlantic crossing where we will try to save as much fuel as possible.
26 November Well after practically NO sleep due to rocking and rolling from the swell, current and wind we had a slow start to the morning. Mark took his duck (they call it a dink!) down, which is difficult and dangerous in these conditions, and went into the Port to see the Harbour Master to see if we could get a berth in there as it was so untenable on anchor. Jennifer also had her Moroccan friend from Tangier coming over on the ferry for the day, Igram. We had considered catching the ferry across to see her but because the conditions were so bad we didn’t want to leave the boats. Luckily Mark negotiated berths for us both and we prepared the boat to move. Easier said than done, trying to get the flopper stoppers in and the anchor up. I am always a bit anxious in conditions like this, that the anchor will get stuck again, and there were rocks close to us but thank goodness all went well. Mark jumped in his duck and assisted us to berth, and then Robbie dropped him back to Starlet and brought the duck back in so he could assist them to berth.
Starlet berthed and Jennifer and Ikram had a happy reunion.
Marks birthday today so we will celebrate his special day tonight, after a bad start to the day!
27 November: We are departing Tarifa around 7am for Mohammedia, Morocco, it’s about 170 nautical miles and will take us 28 hours approximately.