AN Routes from Gibraltar

an31 an32 an33 an34 an35 an36 an37 an38

Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar to Madeira to Canary Islands to Lesser Antilles to Northern Europe to Portugal to Azores to North America to Atlantic Morocco

Gibraltar is described as the gateway to the Mediterranean, although the opposite is equally true as, for westbound boats, the Strait of Gibraltar is the gateway to the Atlantic. One of the most frequented transit ports for yachts in the world, Gibraltar is particularly busy in spring, when boats make their way into the Mediterranean, and autumn, when the end of the sailing season produces a similar movement in the

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opposite direction. Gibraltar is also a convenient place from which to visit neighbouring ports in North Africa, whether the colourful Tangiers in Morocco or the two remaining Spanish possessions of Mella and Ceuta.

As Gibraltar lies at the eastern end of the Strait which bears its name, eastbound boats are less dependent on weather conditions than those intending to sail through the Strait to the Atlantic

111 IPs


AN30 Routes from Gibraltar beyond. A favourable forecast is essential on leaving Gibraltar as the Strait can turn into an insurmountable obstacle if weather conditions are not right. Ideally, westbound boats should wait for a Levanter or at least light westerly winds before leaving Gibraltar. Almost as important as the direction of the wind is the state of the tide and this should be played to one's advantage. If one leaves about three hours after HW Gibraltar, the tide will be contrary for only the first hour. After the tide slackens, by keeping to the Spanish side of the Strait, when the tide turns one should have a fair current at least as far as Tarifa. Because of the strong tidal sets, one should avoid sailing too close to the Spanish shore. In strong westerly winds, if one finds it impossible to make headway against them, one can anchor in the lee of Tarifa to wait for a break in the weather and a favourable tide. The situation usually improves significantly once the Strait has been left behind and a course is set for either Madeira or the Canaries. If bound for Northern Europe, a direct course is rarely possible since both winds and current along the Portuguese coast are normally contrary. If the Portuguese trades are still blowing, it is better to head offshore and favour the tack that makes most northing.

Going east from Gibraltar is usually easier, although it pays to wait for a favourable westerly wind. Timing one's departure to take advantage of the tide is less important because the west set-

ANSI Gibraltar to Madeira ting currents along Europa Point are never strong enough to pose serious problems. If not bound for one of the ports along the Spanish Costa del Sol, it is better to stay offshore where the winds are usually steadier. Mediterranean routes from Gibraltar are described in chapter 22.

The weather in the immediate vicinity of Gibraltar can be very different from the weather of the general area. In the southern part of the Iberian peninsula from Cape St Vincent to Gibraltar the winds are more variable in all months. The Portuguese trades are felt less in this area, and in their absence there is an onshore SW or W sea breeze. Sailing conditions close to the Strait of Gibraltar are affected by the geography of the Strait. The wind usually either blows in or out of the Strait and can be quite strong at times. The strong easterly wind is called a Levanter and when this blows hard against the prevailing east setting current flowing through the Strait into the Mediterranean, it creates a short sharp sea, which can make it very difficult, and occasionally impossible, to reach Gibraltar from the Atlantic. The opposing Poniente, which is a strong W or SW wind, can make it even more difficult to sail in the opposite direction, out of Gibraltar into the Atlantic. The Levanter occurs most frequently from July to October and is associated with rain and reduced visibility. Also in summer the occasional small depression moves north from Morocco towards Gibraltar.

Best time:

Tropical storms:



Pil (it-:

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Cri ising guides:

Atlantic Islands, Madeira Cruising Guide.





Destination Distance (M)

AN310 Gibraltar

AN311 Camera

36'08'N, 5'22'W

36*Q3'N, 5'25'W AN312 Tarifa

35°59'N. 5J36'W

AN313 Paloma

35'59'N. 5'45'W


AN315 Fora



35'50'N, 5'57'W

32'44'N. 16'39'W

32'37.5'N, 16'54.5'W

AN316 Cima E

Porto Santo


33'03'N, 16'17'W

33*03% 16'19'W

Gibraltar should not be left in a strong westerly wind as the wind reinforced by the permanent flow of water from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean makes it almost impossible to beat one's way out of the Strait. An equally strong easterly wind blowing against the current does not improve matters much as it creates a short steep sea. Ideally Gibraltar should be left in light or easterly winds, but if this is not possible, it is better to keep to the edges of the Strait where the current is weaker. Detailed tactics for leaving Gibraltar are described at the beginning of this section. In daylight and good visibility one may decide to tack across to the African shore, where the current is weaker. Be aware of the large amount of shipping when crossing the traffic lanes and also to the fast moving ferry from Algeciras to Tangiers.

In favourable wind and tide conditions, the course runs parallel to the Spanish coast. Taking one's departure from WP AN310 an initial course is set for WP AN311 off Punta Camera. Having left the Bay of Gibraltar, the course is altered for WP AN312 south of Tarifa light. The route continues on this course to keep out of the west going shipping lane. A course of 270° will take one to WP AN313, which clears the shallows off Punta Paloma. From there a direct course can be set for Madeira. As the shipping lanes converging on the Strait of Gibraltar have to be crossed at some point, tacking across should only be done when Cape Espartel can be cleared on that tack. The cape, at the NW point of Africa, should not be approached too closely because of the overfalls in its vicinity. A direct course leads to WP AN315 east of Ilheu de Fora, a rocky islet with a powerful light off the eastern extremity of Madeira. From there the course runs along the south coast of the island to the capital Funchal. The alternative is to call first at Porto Santo and sail to WP AN316 east of Ilheu de Cima. Porto Santo should be approached with care, especially at night, as there are a number of dangers off its eastern coast.

During the summer months the steady Portuguese trades usually ensure favourable sailing conditions all the way to Madeira. At the beginning and end of summer, sailing conditions can be less pleasant and both calms and S W winds mky be encountered en route. Passages in May and November are particularly vulnerable to this kind of weather, but between June and early October the prevailing northerly winds should provide a fast sail for most of the way. In strong SW winds, one may be forced to abandon one's intention to call at Madeira and continue to the Canaries without stopping. This course of action is taken every year by boats that have left either Northern Europe or the Mediterranean too late. As the small marina in Funchal gets extremely crowded in October and early November with boats stopping there on their way to the Canaries, bypassing Madeira at this time of year should be considered by anyone short of time.

AN32 Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Best time:

May to August

Tropical storms:




BA: 4104 US: 104


BA: 1. 67 US: 131. 143

Cruising guides:

Canary Islands Cruising Guide, Atlantic Islands.





Destination Distance (M)

AN320 Gibraltar

AN321 Camera

36'08'N, 5:22'W

36J03lN; 5'25'W AN322 Tarifa

AN323 Paloma

AN324 Espartel 35'50'N, 5-5™ AN325 Morocco A 34°00'N: 8"30'W AN326 Morocco B 32°40'N, 10'00'W

AN327 Alegranza 29'25'N, 13°28'W AN328 Isleta 28'09'N, 15'23'W

La Sociedad 585 29'13.8'N, 13J30'W Puerto Calero 608 28S5% 13*42'W Las Palmas 704 28'07.5'N, 15'25.5'W

waypoints, AN325 and AN326.

For boats intending to make their first Canarian landfall at Lanzarote, a course should be set for WP AN327 off the small island of Alegranza. The capital and main port on Lanzarote is Arrecife, although better docking facilities will be found at Puerto Calero five miles further down the coast. If time permits, one should consider stopping first at Graciosa, a small island north of Lanzarote, which has a small but well protected port at La Sociedad, on the north shore of the narrow's separating Graciosa from Lanzarote.

For boats bound directly for Las Palmas and thus approaching Gran Canaria from the north, the conspicuous hump of La Isleta makes a perfect landfall. WP AN328 clears all dangers, including El Roque rock off Punta El Nido. 2.5 miles further south is the entrance to Las Palmas harbour, which in 1994 was being considerably enlarged. The eastern breakwater was being extended southwards and this is only shown on the latest charts.

Sailing conditions to the Canaries are normally

Leaving Gibraltar with a favourable tide, one does not need to go too close to the Spanish coast. Setting course for WP AN321, south of Punta Camera,' avoids any dangers. When leaving the Bay of Gibraltar, one should watch out for the fast ferry plying between Algeciras and Tangiers. As far as Tarifa it is better to stay in the inshore lane and steer for WP AN322 approximately 1 mile south of Tarifa light. This will keep one out of the west-going shipping lane. From there, a course of 270° leads to WP AN323 to clear the shallows off Punta Paloma. As one has to cross the shipping lanes, and if the winds are westerly, one should only tack when one is confident of clearing Cape Espartel on that tack. One should not go too close to this cape as there are overfalls in the area. By setting course for WP AN324 one stays clear of an area of confused seas off Cape Espartel. Better conditions are usually found farther off the African coast and therefore the course should stay outside the 100 fathom line. This can be done by setting a course which passes through two intermediate better than those encountered on the way to Madeira. From June to September the prevailing northerlies and a favourable current usually provide excellent sailing conditions along this route. In May and October the winds are less constant, although their direction continues to be predominantly northerly. November has a higher incidence of winds from other directions, but winds from the

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