A lighthouse. Beeping phones. Airplane stripes. Fishing boats. The smell of pine trees! We are approaching Cabo Sao Vicente, the most western point of mainland Europe. That’s what struck me most: suddenly having the smell of pinetrees… after days of ocean breathing. Very special. It’s the start of the most exciting and challenging part of the passage: the Strait of Gibraltar!
Setting sail from the Azores to the Mediterranean
It’s Sunday eve 22.30. The 5th day after leaving Horta, Azores. I have my 3-hour watch with Captain Zac and Sammy Zig Zag. We are having more and more boobytraps to avoid now. We still have 4 sails up. What a nice sail today.
I enjoyed every second of it. As we are getting closer to land the wind is shifting and soon we have to drop some sails. After my watch, I, Snoozy Suzy (one of my nicknames) is going for siesta numero 4 of the day. As usual, I crash asleep right away. I think that’s what a swinging boat and salty air does to you. When I start my next watch at 4.30 in the morning (Cyclos time – we have no idea what time (or day) it is in the big busy world) we have passed most of the coast of Portugal. We have an eventful day ahead of us!
From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea
Strong levante wind is forecasted for the next days. Captain Zac considered stopping and waiting in Portimao but it seems ok enough to just go and conquer the elements. Cyclos and crew can handle it! We got a request from another yacht if we can tow them. They left the same day as us in the Azores and are having big engine problems. With no wind (yet) they are just floating around. Towing is quite impossible but we lend them a hand by sending over Russel (our engineer) to check out the situation. They are only 10 miles away from us so we just take a little detour. Once there, I take advantage of this moment of the boat being still and jump into the sea. This is shock-ing freezing cold. I can bearly breath and bearly swim. But what a refreshment! Good to have the blood fully pumping around again after mostly sitting on the ass for almost a week again. We take off again, feeling sorry for these guys. They need to go to Cadiz to get the engine fixed. Soon after we waved them bye, we rip a loop of our mainsail. The guys got it under control in no time. We put a rig the mainsail and continue. Not a boring day so far and I only gets more exciting!
We’re sailing close to Cadiz now. It’s starting. The Levante wind kicks in. This is the wind in live in Tarifa for (the most southern point of mainland Europe and only 14 km from Africa). This famous strong, warm, pressing Eastern Sahara funnels through the straight, reaching up 50 knots. We are going straight into it. Against the wind, against the waves. Waves are around 2 meters now and get bigger every hour. This is actually quite fun! It’s one big rollercoaster ride. We have another amazing sunset behind us. Time to be super alert for fishing boats that are everywhere. We can see the lighthouse of Cabo trafalgar (Canos the Mecca). This is where Tarifa goes kitesurfing if the wind in Tarifa is too strong. Cool to see Costa de la luz from a different perspective. Most of these lighthouses I visited on land. Now I use them as a reference trying to figure out where the hell we are. It’s dark now.
Sailing past Tarifa
Siesta time for snoozy Suzy. Impossible to sleep in the forepeak (where the crew area is). I built my bunker of pillows on the sofa and crash to sleep to be (kind of) fresh again when my next watch starts. Who knows what will happen. The wind is zoofing outside and the boat makes noises I haven’t heard before in these >20 days I sailed on Cyclos. What a super boat being able to handle all this. My friend Vince calls me and wonders when she should go out and wave at the beach in Tarifa. Looks like we’ll pass by Tarifa around midnight. Russel wakes me up when are approaching Tarifa. I want to see this of course! The weather is insane. Arvid is steering. Wind goes up to 8 Beaufort. Our course is 95 but we have to steer 75 to actually be on course. Imagine how strong the current is! It’s hysterical out there. It’s weird to be so close to home but still so far away. Super focused and in silencio we get through this. We passed the corner of the Tarifa and the weather gets calm in no time. We’re out of the wind funnel. I go down try to make teas and coffees. Everyone is soaking wet. Then my watch starts at 1.30. Just a mile passed Tarifa the sea is like a mirror. We have to stay super-focused for the next boobytrap: Gibraltar and the boat traffic jam around.
We have sailed from the Caribbean to Europe!
Sammy zigzag with who I have done 50 watches by now has taught me about the lights of boats at night and what the different combinations mean. 2 red lights on top of each other, is a boat with no command. “Basically they all gone to bed and fucked off” he says. Many boats seem to use this tactic as they are the first in order of preference so everyone has to give way to them. Good to have learned something about navigation lights. Super important! It’s calm. I hear the spraying of dolphins. We have some company around the boat again. Then there is a huge shooting star. The biggest I’ve seen this trip! My watch ends at 4.30 and I ‘fuck off an go to bed’ just before sunrise. I’m too tired to stay up and watch it. Manana…
What an exciting passage. We celebrate with 2 beers the next day, with the snowpeaked Sierra Nevada in the background. We turn Cyclos inside out to dry from the Gibraltar Strait Adventure. A few more days on this lake called the Mediterranean and then there’s Palma de Mallorca!
So we did it! We crossed the Atlantic. Most of us twice!