Crossing Gibraltar Straits

After waiting for two days at GIB for an easterly force 7/8 storm to pass, our group, consisting of Fiona, Gemma, George, Harry, Neil, Nigel and myself, crossed Gibraltar Straits to Cueta on the African continent.

Friday 6 through Sunday 8 February 2004 (Gibraltar sea kayak club)
Peter Jones and Nigel Dennis run BCU skills and coach trainings and assessments for the Gibraltar sea kayak club. Nigel Jeffries, is very active on setting sea kayaking in Gibraltar 'on the map'. And they all have that one goal: crossing the Gibraltar Straits. All are very eager to learn. After the courses, Norman drives Peter and me all over GIB in his Landrover. Some road access is restricted, but Norman murmered something about us being his 'cousins' and thus got past all checkpoints. He seems to know everyone on the island. We visit the monkeys on 'the rock'. My cap is stolen, but in a moment of confusion I manage to reclaim it.

Monday 9 February (Rounding of Europa Point)
We have an afternoon paddle around Europa Point. The wind is about force 4/5 and the forecast for the next days is not too promising for a crossing of Gibraltar Straits. Around Europa Point we experience some of a tidal race and I can pull off one good surf. The wind is funnelled in different directions on both sides of the Rock. Before we had quartering winds from our backs. Now, out of the shelter of the Rock, we have to battle against a strong headwind. The weather sock at the Marina hints to a force 6. Our favourite hang-out for the next days will be Nelson's pub. Here we discuss the latest weather forecasts and drink away our sorrows with pints of beer. When we walk across the airport runway, that doubles as the border line, we have a hard time walking straight and in a straight line. I put this on the wind. I would have to write pages and pages to explain all the peculiarities of Gibraltar. Well, here are a few keywords: very cheap alcohol, affordable single malt whisky, cheap cigarettes, a sugar shopping lane in every shop and gas station, very expensive housing, monkeys, tunnels, caves, and a lot of history. Furthermore a lot of mopeds and cars and little parking space. The biggest parking space is at Safeway's supermarket, but that has been build recently on land reclaimed from the sea. Yes, by a Dutch company.

Thursday 12 February (Crossing Gibraltar Straits)
HW Gibraltar: 07:10 and 19:37
I rise at 04:30 to start the day with some relaxed breakfast. We start our crossing at 06:15. It is still dark, but the light of the moon is reflected on the water. When we pass the harbour we are closely but silently watched by a army patrol RIB. Only when we tell them of our plans and are clear of the harbour entrances they veer off. At 07:15 we are off Europa Point. From now on we have to look for ferries, among whitch are high speed ones, and shipping. We see two ferries but those do stay at a safe distance. The sunrise turns into a beautiful and almost windless day. I had expected big swell after three days of strong winds. But only a meter and a half high swell remained. Big cargo ships pass in front of us. We see dolphins and pilot whales. The early start this morning was a necessity because of the strong wind that will pick-up from midday, everyday. We arrive at Cueta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, at 11:00. The temperature of air and water are much more comfortable than in the past days at Gibraltar. I can now brag about my 'new' African roll. Unfortunately I can perform this one only locally. We are welcomed at the kayak club and we can use their trailer to get our kayaks to the ferry. Our stay at Cueta is rather short as we learn that we can make the next ferry back to Spain. We are picked-up by Phil. Fiona dashes off to the bus station to get to Malaga airport. She has to work tomorrow! Now she can brag about having been in Gibraltar, Africa, Spain, England and Wales, all on one day!

© A.M. Schoevers

Arturo Asquez, Norman Garcia, Sigurd Haveland and Nigel Jeffries crossed Gibraltar Straits later that year. An article by Arturo Asquez about their crossing was published in BCU Canoe Focus 12-04 (No. 152).