Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar with sailboat Eau Too

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Adventure time!

October 9 I hopped on boat ‘Eau Too.’ An 57 foot Black Sea Yacht built in 2007 and refitted by the current owner over the last years. ‘Eau Too’ sets sail for a circumnavigation. We’re seven people on board and have 6 nationalities present: Lebanon, Poland, France, Australia, UK, and me from Holland. How cool is that? Surely we’re going to have lots of stories to exchange during the ride. I’m joining for the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps longer. Or perhaps another passage or island exploration later at some point. Let’s see. We have an ocean to conquer first! And then I have to finish a book on exactly this.
 Happy to be on board Eau Too
With Eau Too we join the ARC+. The ARC is a sailors bucketlist thing and I’m a luck bastard to join the spectacle. Together with 74 other sail boats we leave the harbour of Las Palmas for the Atlantic ocean, via Cape Verde. We made it to Las Palmas and are now preparing for the big trip. The first passage has been Frejus (France) to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary islands (Spain). We’ve made 1522 miles in 12 days.
Here’s a day from this passage I will never forget. In a good way!

The day we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar.

October 17, 2016. I’m 8 days at sea now.
I open my eyes and see the reflection of water moving on the ceiling. I sit up (which is a luxury on board!) and look outside. All I see is water. That’s a change of scenery from the starboard stern cabin. I always saw land when I woke up.
Is it a new day? I check the time and it’s 17.00. I feel like I’ve just experienced a few days since I was on watch from 21.00 – 00.00, 3.00- 6.00 and 10.00 – 14.00, and there were so many happenings and incentives. That on a few square meters. With all the naps and watch-keeping shifts, rhythm on a boat is nothing like on land. It may sound tough but it takes a few days and then you’re used to it.

Let’s rewind 11 hours…..

6AM. I text my Tarifa friends with a photo of the chart plotter. We’re 17 miles away from Gibraltar. With an average speed of 6 knots we’ll be passing the Strait in a few hours. My watch is finished so I crash to sleep. I’m on again at 10.00.
Navigating Strait of Gibraltar
I hear a familiar sound. The sound of the easterly levante wind zooofing around. I hop out of bed, climb into the cockpit and catch the sunrise when I look over to portside (live shakey insta video update). Looking starboard side, I see the rock of Gibraltar. I scan the horizon and there’s dozens of tankers around, most of them ‘not under command,’ and many leisury fishing boats. It’s sunday and it’s full moon. Full moon means more fish closer to the surface. It’s awesome to see Gibraltar from a different perspective. Usually I drive past it on the other side when I go to Tarifa.

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I just came of watch 2 hours earlier but I’m too excited to go back to bed. We’re sailing into another continent today AND along Tarifa, which I’ve made basecamp over the last years. I already called my friends to get out there and wave from the land.
We planned to be around here at exactly this time. And we are. Good navigation plan, skip! At 9.19 the tide changes and we want to go with it, since tides can be strong here. It’s full moon so the tidal differences and current will be on its strongest. Our COG (Course Over Ground) is 5. We’re super lucky with the weather. The forecast gives a mild levante. Last time I passed through it, it was everything but mild. Apparently the whole summer has been hardcore levante, since my kitesurf friends could hardly kite due to the strong winds.
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‘All ships, All ships…’

Someone on the radio broadcasts about a boat with an estimated 9 refugees floating around. If we can all look out for them. The weather is calm today, which is not that common for this zone. We, westerners making dreams happen, are not the only ones crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s also those that don’t even have a passport risking their lives to be alive. They make the same passage, the other way around, with a very different boat, crew and destination. This is a daily event here in the Strait and it breaks my heart. There are no numbers and god knows how many get taken by the current.
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Looking out over the Strait and Marocco, photo taken in Tarifa, Spain

9.30 AM The windspeed meter is slowly going up. We’re having around 9 knots of wind now. With only the headsail up, a little bit of wind and current,  we slowly glide towards Tarifa, running a speed of 3,5 knots. I’m on the helm now and zigzagging mainly between leisury sunday fishing boats. On our port side one tanker after the other is passing by, navigating through the TSS (‘Traffic Seperation Scheme’). Hundreds of them pass through each day. On the AIS (Automatic Identification System) we can see where they are going: Nicaragua, Mexico, Recife, Gran Canaria, Rotterdam. Our global sea transport system is fascinating, yet such a pollutive element of our society. Not just the petrol but the noise is what does a lot of damage. Sounds reaches much further underwater than via air. It kills the whales. Go local. 
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11.30 AM We have 12knots of North East wind and the compass pointing 83degrees. We slowly sail into the strait. From my obsessive kitesurf wind checking and analyzing back in the days, I know that around noon the levante wind usally picks up. I already see the kitesurfers playing around at Balneario surf spot next to Las Palomas Island, the most southern point of continental Europe. Like last time I crossed the Strait of Gib from the other direction, I get on the phone with my friend Vince, who’s walking the dog and waving.
Vincy & Tibu waving to Eau Too from Tarifa. Photo: Insta.Vincy on Instagram
We locate a yellow buoy in front of us indicating a hazard and we have to pass it south. 16 knots of wind now.

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Looking out for Vince!

13.20. With a speed of 7.6 COG we cross across the Strait of Gibraltar.  It’s a bit more quiet with the tankers now. It was super timing to do this passage on a sunday! There seems to be less boats than usual. Great. because we have to somehow cross the Traffic Seperation Scheme (TSS). The wind picks up and with 20-25 knots we cross the TSS to ‘the other side.’ It’s like we’re going through boiling water. Here is where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. There’s no straight line seperating the seas. With a different salinity, different layers mingle and creates a wild water lane across the strait. Little Moroccan fishing boats show up. Can’t believe the danger they put themselves in with all these tankers passing by on both sides. Tarifa gets smaller and smaller. And the mosk of Tanger becomes bigger at the Horizon. With a separation of only 14 km, we have gone from Europe to Africa.
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tankers, little fishingboats and the med mixing with the Atlantic

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Sams Pirate socks

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Ozzie Carly has prepared a Moroccan style cous cous salad to bring in the Moroccan vibes.

14.00 I hand over the helm to the next ‘watch’. I take the best seat of the boat, in the corner at the stern, that’s the back of the boat. I finally get this restless soul to sit down. I clip my toenails and enjoy the view of Morocco. Sam is putting her pirate socks on the guardrail to dry. George is talking Arabian on the phone. Carly is on motherwatch, preparing foods. Bart is somewhere and Kirstin is asleep. Then I’m off for a snooze. Snooze number 3? 4? of today. I have no idea anymore.
Briefing Strait of Gibraltar

Captain Steve briefs on the journey so far and the next passage to the Canary Islands.

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At 17.00 I wake up. I look outside and all I see is water.
The Eau Too Crew
I’m off to the cockpit and check out the Morocco Coast. We have the Atlantic swell now meaning big long waves and a relatively non rocky dinner outside. All together we have dinner and dolphins are stealing the show. We already got spoiled with dolphins on the bow but the show we get now is unbelievable. I have never seen so many dolphins together. There’s hundreds of them, jumping, playing and swimming to our boat!!!
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What a day, what a day!!!
Seriously this has been such an exciting, lively and eventful day! It tastes for more. And there’s so much more to come. It’s just the beginning.
Thank you ‘Eau Too’ for having me part of your crew!
Got to close the laptop now because at 21.00 I’m on watch again and I got to take a rest. The exciting day ain’t over yet!

Later THAT day <3

In 7 days we sailed from Frejus, France to Morocco. It has been an eventful and amazing first week at sea! Now in the Atlantic! To be continued… I’m also editing a video of this day! Stay tuned.
Ahoy! xxx Suz

Learn more on the refugee situation in the Strait of Gibraltar:

Resources to learn more about noise pollution here: OceanConservation Research, Environment360, and Animal Welfare Institute

Learn more on Global Shipping situation: 3 steps to Greener Shipping and Growth to Globalisation.
More about the Eau Too adventure:
Tips to go on an adventure like this: Check out my ever evolving resource page and sign up for the once in a while, no spam, newsletter.

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