Sailing the Atlantic, a dream for every single navigator

Warming up

It is from the beginning of September when many ships begin their journey to the Canary Islands. They start they great adventure of sailing Atlantic from there. Boats from countless nationalities are gathering in the Canary Islands to «cross the pond» since November. The main objective is to arrive in the best possible conditions there, finalize the work on board, stow all food, and complete crews.

The port of Las Palmas has traditionally gathered the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers race. This is an event that, more than one race itself, becomes a way to sailing Atlantic accompanied by about 200 more ship. Participants get benefited by the experience of all participants and the well organized system. This enable them to enjoy the increase of safety around ships and crews. Also a series of events that enliven the crews.

The Atlantic Grand Prix

sailing atlantic

However, during earlier years, things have changed. Lanzarote, and more precisely Playa Blanca, has been also increasing the number of ships willing to saturate at Marina Rubicon. This is a prelude to his «Atlantic leap». Proof of this are the seven editions organized by the Atlantic Grand Prix. The last two editions have departed from this modern Marina in Lanzarote. It is an amateur oceanic test, that  usually gathers thirty ships, mostly Spanish, ready to cross the Atlantic sailing . The chances to be part of this adventure don’t rely only on the owners or operators of sailboats; there are also Yacht charter companies that organize this important event. They provide the boat, skipper and experience, and also put the available places of those adventurers eager for miles and willing to spend a minimum of a couple of weeks without seeing land.

Any experience is required, but you’ll need to actively collaborate on the tasks that the skipper imposes, such as nigh watches to be established. The adventure is always assured. There is also the option to walk through the marshlands and contact any of the skippers to prepare their boats. English level, experience, and especially the willingness to work hard on board will play in favor of the candidates.

The Journey: Sailing Atlantic

First stage: Peninsula – Lanzarote.

Boats intending to cross, and sailing Atlantic, must be first on the Canary Islands. This is highly recommended not only for being a natural scale to take advantage of the trade winds, but also will serve to test yachts and crews during the first 600 miles from Gibraltar.

Normally when this voyage is planned, it is divided into 2 or 3 stages. Being mandatory stop near the Gibraltar Strait, later to undertake with guarantees, the journey to the Canary Islands. A good option can be the modern AlcaidesaMarina, in La Linea de la Concepcion; Barbate port, about 20 miles from Tarifa; or Ceuta across the strait.

For many sailors, crossing the Strait will be a unique opportunity to sail on one of the busiest waters in the world. That includes many elements that will make this experience a true «sea exam.» In the Strait, besides a dense maritime traffic, we’ll find currents, tides, low near the coast, fog, and a peculiar weather that will force us to study all these variables carefully.

Tips for crossing the Strait of Gibraltar sailing atlantic

It will probably be difficult to have everything in our favor: current, tide and wind. But, perhaps, the important thing its to not have everything against. – Remember that there are some separation lines of maritime traffic coming perfectly defined as A and B on nautical charts-.

Call Tarifa Traffic (VHF Channel 10 – Tel: 956 684 757) prior to departure. They will keep track of all our crossing, plus giving valuable meteorology information, since it is not the same that we can have in La Linea or Algeciras.

The tides

It may be interesting to enter the Gibraltar Strait after the high tide. Keep in mind that in the tide yearbook Gibraltar has the time zone -1. – We normally have 9 hours of current in favor. In the middle of the Strait, the eastward current begins at the time of high tide in Tarifa and flows westwards 6 hours later. These currents are indicated in the charts and are calculated according to the time of high tide in the area.

 In the narrowest part of the strait, to the east, between the meridians of Tarifa and Punta Europa, the intensity of the current is maximum, and decreases in the central area of W, and south of Punta Camarinal (Bologna) on 1.75 1 knot knots and south of Cape Trafalgar. The maximum increases in intensity, achieving a current of 3 knots, can be felt nearer the coast on both sides, and probably more on prominent points.

A considerable violent current tidal is formed on the low of Los Cabezos (near the beach of Los Lances). It is during the moments of greatest intensity of the current incoming and ebb tide, and covers a large area for calms; bad weather can extend along the entire Strait and join the current coming from the coast between Punta Malabata and Alboasa. The predominant wind direction is always up or setting. A 3/4 lift force in Gibraltar often means 7 in Tarifa and possibly force of 6 inTrafalgar.

What to take an eye on

Constantly keep watching the traffic and especially to the fast ferry that sails from Tarifa.

Avoid «dabbling», as there are referred to eddies that arise because of the currents. More often, they can be found attached to the coast. They are also indicated in the charts.

In the ports area they typically have a book that informs about tides and currents. Funny how the boat can stay almost stopped or literally «fly» depending on how the tide is for or against. If we watch carefully the GPS, quickly will see the effect it has on our speed.

Once we cross the Strait, we have to separate from the coastline about 100 miles to the west. We will avoid getting cool north wind. And ensure keeping away warm offshore winds, we will not come up, especially at night, with Moroccan boats fishing. They set their arts, not only intended to catch fish, but some probably with the intention of «fish sailboats», releasing after its propeller or keel is succumbed to their networks, payment of a fee…

Many things to consider before sailing Atlantic, but essential things to make your journey safe.

Lanzarote is awaiting us… Lanzarote wants us to enjoy sailing Atlantic.

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