Balvenie's red-letter-day: Goodbye to the Med

Gibraltar showing the marinas in foreground and the airport with La Linea anchorage beyond
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New Zealander cruising couple Amanda Church and Mark Farrell continue to cruise in their 47ft fractional rigged sloop Balvenie, in which they have already covered over 25,00nautical miles. They have been cruising in the Mediterranean for four summers, but the day has finally come...

For a while there we thought the day would never come that we would let the lines go and leave Ocean Village Marina in Gibraltar. We had enjoyed our time there and our extended stay due to freezer and other repairs was no hardship at all. Finally we slipped out of the marina, turned right at the end of the airport runway, (checking the flashing warnings lights for incoming aircraft weren’t on!) and headed into the anchorage behind the breakwater back in Spanish waters at La Linea.

When we had last been here the Spanish Coast Guard had evicted us after four nights, we were hoping to sneak another one or two in before they did their eviction rounds again.
Goodbye to Gibraltar - and the Mediterranean
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Our next big adventure was to be transiting the Straits of the Gibraltar, in a nutshell – going through our third gate - leaving the Mediterranean Sea and entering the Atlantic Ocean.

There are literally pages and pages of explanations in various cruising guides on how this should be done. In order to get the best ride with the least level of unnecessary excitement and discomfort possible you should combine perfect wind conditions with the correct current and tides.

High tide in Gibraltar was 7.30am and you should leave 3 hours after it to make the most of the westward flow. 3 hours after high tide seemed a little late but all the books concurred so we followed their instructions. The wind forecast wasn’t perfect but it was for a very light westerly, so we crossed fingers and toes and lifted anchor.
Balvenie - heading west through the Straits of Gibraltar
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As we motored southwest across the Bay of Gibraltar our very light wind built to nearly 20 knots, right on the nose, of course. But the sea was flat and there was a catamaran a little way in front of us that we were carefully watching, the water still looked flat out further so on we went.

It’s around 15 miles from the anchorage to Tarifa Point, infamously known as the windiest point in the Mediterranean and the idea is that you get there at slack water. The Atlantic is apparently around 1.5 metres higher than the Med, (just how that works I have no idea) but in order for all this water to merge there are some very interesting overflows, whirlpools, and other unusual sea actions where sea monsters are likely to lurk.
Balvenie - passing the gate at Tarifa Point - and Mark looking solemn for the occasion
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We just kept on motoring through it, still on the wind, but apart from the water churned up with the current which Skipper kept chasing wherever he could, I am very pleased to report that it all went without incident. The breeze was a little cool for a while and we felt just a little envious of the small armada of yachts charging downwind towards us, crews lounging around in swimwear – just as excited to be entering the Med as we were to be exiting it.

We have enjoyed our time in the Med immensely, we entered from the Suez Canal on June 15, 2008 and have sailed to Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Malta, France, Monaco, Spain, Morocco and Gibraltar over four summers, we left on August 03, 2011. There are a few spots we didn’t get to, but not many. We gave it our best shot. Now we are in the Atlantic, but there is still a little more of the European Mainland to explore before we start heading south.

After we rounded Tarifa Point we pointed the bow north and not surprisingly the wind followed us around. We raised sails and set off on a tight reach into a building north westerly sea breeze. It turned into a rather lively sail in parts, our recently fresh water cleaned boat now covered in plenty of salt water, oh well, it’s a boat.

As we came up the coast we passed hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines, always a bad sign when out sailing and this coastline is no exception. Added to the increasing winds we encountered several more areas of very interesting sea state, obviously caused by currents but they just seemed to be in random places. We wouldn’t want to be out there when the wind was really howling.
Balvenie - Spain's thousands of wind turbines
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After a busy day we pulled in behind the breakwater at Barbate at 5.30pm. We could tuck in enough to stay out of the Atlantic swell, so dropped anchor for the night. It was definitely an extra tot for all for sundowners, or was it a couple of extras as we sat back and enjoyed out first sunset at anchor in the Atlantic, wow!

To follow Balvenie in their cruising adventures of the world, go to theirhttp://www.yachtbalvenie.blogspot.com/!Blog-site.
http://www.sail-world.com/87315