Sailing Log: 6-day Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Welcome back! In here I wrote a daily log, eperiences and thoughts from our 6-day sailing journey from Gibraltar to Canary Islands in a Bavaria 46 sailing boat. Crew: Dave (captain), Allenie (his girlfriend), Kuba (From Czech Republic), Salla (my wife) and Esteban (me 😉 ).

It has been a while since my last post, but trying to keep up in writing here about the latest adventures. In October 2018 me and my wife found an awesome crew that was going to sail from Gibraltar to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

We sailed in Helsinki for the first time in April 2018 and got in love with the sport. We then sailed 3-4 times per week as part of Helsinki Sailing Center and this trip was a challenge we wanted to take.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

October-November is a preferred month to start sailing towards the Caribbean as the weather conditions are much favourable. However you need to do it in stages and this one from Gibraltar to Canary Islands is a part of it.

The trip takes 5 to 7 days and for at least 4 days it will be you, the crew and the Atlantic Ocean. Completely disconnected.

The Journey and Log

Day 0

After a couple of days of heavy rains, flooding and storms in Spain, we left Estepona port towards Gibraltar. The wind wasn’t in our favour so we motored, it took about 5 hours. Curious dolphins came to say hi and we spotted a weird fish which later we got to know that it was a sunfish.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Filled the gas tanks and when we arrived to Gibraltar port we realized that our electricity adaptor wasn’t compatible with Gibraltar standard so we didn’t connect to the electricity grid. This meant meant that energy saving started that day as we have limited amount of electricity in the boat’s battery which we will need further on during the trip.

Did final shopping, basic stuff like eggs, rice, pasta, tuna, UHT milk, bread and then snacks for the night watches. We already had a few things in the pantry but better to buy more just in case, we will be 5 hungry people at some point.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Went to check Gibraltar for a while, walked up to Moorish Castle but as the area was closed already we didn’t go up to the Rock. Saw the local monkeys though 🙂

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Gibraltar to Lanzarote

  • Total nautical miles left: 663nm
  • Left: 14.30
  • Overcast
  • Flat sea at the bay
  • Under motor
  • Boat name: GEA
  • Skipper: Dave Hammond
  • Crew: Allenie, Salla, Kuba, Esteban.
Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Day 1 23.10

Woke up early, 7.30am, and after some muesli and yogurt for breakfast, Salla, Kuba and me started hiking to the Rock of Gibraltar, we had a few hours prior to Departure towards the Strait of Gibraltar which was at 2pm. We made it to the top of the Rock at around 10.30 after which we descended to the port and by 11.30 we were cooking lentils for lunch. We made extra lentils so just to have on those days where cooking might seem challenging in the boat.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

We left Gibraltar as planned at 2.30pm, we motored all the way until the beginning of the Strait and started to sail downwind after that. During this time we had the security and boat briefing, harness on and life vest at all times during watch or if you need to work on the deck. We also have a personal beacon which every person on watch will have. So if this person falls to the ocean it will be able to activate it and that will send a GPS signal with its location.

The Strait can get tricky to navigate, when trying to leave towards the Atlantic we have to consider the current and tide, the wind was with us so we had a 6 hour window to make it out of it before the tide comes in.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

If you look at the map, the Strait of Gibraltar looks like a funnel and this is why the current can get very strong and this is the reason why you want to have the wind/current and tide on your side when leaving to the Atlantic.

It took a bit longer than we thought to make it out of the strait so in the last hour we could see the fight between the tide and the wind/current. If you don’t get it right it can be very difficult to get out and it will make you go back to Gibraltar. Luckily for us we made it out but it was just the start of a long night.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Salla cooked us dinner, the person with the 16.00-18.00 watch is the one who cooks dinner that day. We had Asian inspired rice with chicken.

Day 2 24.10

  • 15° 50’ 13’’N  07° 37’ 14’’ W
  • Steering 250°
  • Speed 4,5-5kts/reefing
  • Wind E, 15-20kts with 30kts gusts
  • Swell: 2m, confused waters
  • Clear sky
  • Difficult hand steering
  • T.D. 116nm (547nm to go)
  • Wind and big swell

We started our 2 hour watch schedule, every person has to take care of the boat and direction while on watch, also for any boat in the horizon that might become dangerous if we get too close without noticing.

Conditions during the night where very windy with gusts from 30-35kts and we were actually looking for ways to go slower. We had minimum amount of sails out but even the bimini (cover on top of the deck) was catching wind from behind so we lowered it and that helped.

I finished my watch and Salla’s watch started, that’s where things got more extreme with waves braking from behind the boat and flooding the deck, we got smashed pretty hard that night and sailing/controlling the boat to the course we needed was very difficult. You could hear from the cabin below the waves crashing to the boat and at some point after a big one that flooded the cockpit we had to check if any water came in the boat. There was a little but nothing to be concerned.

Everyone was really tired and wet, our skipper was awake almost 24 hours trying to make things easier and safer for the persons on watch.

Day time

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

During the day it was comfortable sailing compared to what we just went through, still going downwind, swell was a bit confused and coming from behind and from the sides, but weather was good all sunny.

Wind started to calm down as we forecasted, swell also calmed down. We knew that at some point we had to start the engine, our estimation was that we would require about 36 to 48 hours of motoring at 4,5kts to avoid just floating without wind in the ocean and help us make it to Lanzarote on schedule.

I made pizza for dinner which was surprisingly easy, I thought it would be more difficult with the movement of the boat.

Day 3 25.10

  • 33° 14´19´´N 9° 32´29´´W
  • Steer 250°-240°
  • Speed 4,5kts
  • No wind
  • Flat calm seas
  • Overcast
  • Motoring from 7.30am
  • 430nm to go

We had to start the engine, it is annoying since it can get very noisy especially when trying to sleep in the cabin but we have no choice. Dolphins came by the boat while I was sleeping after my shift, of course.. 😀 Here a pic when I did manage to see them 🙂

The seas were very calm during the day, we could put the autopilot for some hours as we have now unlimited electricity as long as the engine is running and creating its own. Autopilot consumes a lot of energy and in rough weather isn’t as good as a human. But for now that helped us to do other stuff like reading and just enjoy the trip laying on the cockpit, writing and playing some cards.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

We had the fishing rod ready and attached to the aft of the boat in hopes to catch some muhi-muhi or tuna. Instead we caught a sea bird who dived just into the hook while he was fishing. We had to turn around to catch the bird and release it from the hook, not easy to do with the swell moving the boat sideways and in all directions but we managed and the bird was freed without harm.

We had rice and chili con carne for dinner cooked by Allenie.

By the end of the day wind picked up nicely and our apparent wind went up to 12-15kts which made a nice inclination on the boat and allowed us to move close-hauled for some 3 hours at 5-6kts without the need of motor, that was a nice silent break.

We had full moon during the night so it is quite bright, however just before the moon rose it was still dark so we were able to notice bioluminescence in the water, it was really nice to see the sparkles of plankton splashed away from the boat movement.

Day 4 26.10

  • 33° 22´25´´N 11° 01´14´´W
  • Steer 215°
  • Speed 4,5kts
  • Head wind 10kts
  • Swell 1m
  • Storms around, occasional rain during night and early morning
  • Day- clear sky
  • Motoring 24hours except for 3 hours during the night as we had good winds from the side/close-hauled
  • 314nm to go

Night continued to be windy from the side but the wind started to come down and from the front so we took sails in and continued just with motor. When I woke up for my shift at 8am we still had the same situation going with a few storms around us.

The storms were in every direction except on the south east (towards Morocco), thunders on the back and rainy clouds on the front kept us vigilant, we thought a tough day was about to come but after a few showers and sunrise the weather changed and we had almost clear skies.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Still the wind was not with us and kept blowing from the front which made swell towards us and made the ride quite bumpy and unstable. We were still motoring and it would continue like this for the next 12 hours at least. We are hoping to get some wind from the side or behind soon which will allow us to turn off the motor.

Even with unstable seas, rocking the boat sideways, we took the challenge a made some delicious fluffy pancakes, better to have the crew happy they say 😉 We also saw a few birds and a turtle swimming on the way.

More dolphins came to play around the boat too. Pasta carbonara for dinner.

We raised sails hoping for the wind to blow more during the night this would allow us to put the motor off.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

22.17: while writing this I just heard we reduced the RPM of the motor, so it seems we are getting good speed with just the wind.

Day 5 27.10

  • 31° 22´837´´N 12° 37´984´´W
  • Steer 210°
  • Speed 6,5kts avg (max 7,8kts)
  • Downwind 22kts
  • Swell 1m
  • Clear skies in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon.
  • Motoring all night, turned engine off around 10am.
  • Wind shifted from side to back.
  • 166,6nm to go

My night shift started at Midnight, wind didn’t pick up, we had the engine on all night again, I turned it off during my shift around 1am as we were getting about winds of 15kts from the side but that rise on the wind lasted for 10 minutes so had to turn the engine on again.

Went to bed at around 2.30am, woke up at 9am, Dave made me some coffee before helming the boat and we finally got some side wind which slowly gained force. Turned the motor off and opened the sails fully to get that side wind. Then everyone woke up and we had breakfast together in the cockpit. It was a good quiet morning with just the wind and swell moving us, something we were missing for two days.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands
Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands
Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

We saw a few airplanes and big ship today. Also while trying to fish again we had a bird chasing the lure thinking that it was a fish, so we had to take the lure out of the water to avoid what happened last time. Seems it is a lot harder to get fish around here than in the Mediterranean where Dave and Allenie caught tuna.

Made burritos for lunch from the left overs we’ve had from other meals. For dinner we went all Brittish, sausages, roasted cale and mashed with custard for dessert.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Been telling Dave that it is surreal how you see the background and there is absolutely nothing, just water and sky while the boat is rocking from left to right. It feels like out of somekind of simulator but it is all real, the last thing you want is to fall out from here.

I have 2 shifts, from 18.00-20.00 and from 4.00-6.00 which will be more demanding compared to the previous 2 days. Winds are now from behind and we are expecting them to reach 25kts like on our first day.

Day 6 28.10

  • 29°35.415´ N 13°21.278´ W
  • Steer 200°-180°
  • Speed 4,5kts avg (max 7kts)
  • Downwind 20kts
  • Swell 3-6m
  • Clear skies
  • Sailing with butterfly all night
  • Saw land today! Lanzarote
  • 60.6nm to go

It was a challenging night, the boat was rocking a lot so we didn’t sleep as much as we wanted. The swell and gusts during the night were bigger than forecasted and particularly a swell from the side kept on moving the boat and crashing on to it making it very difficult to control.

Winds during the night were steady between 20-25kts but gusts came pretty strong at 30-32kts which made us reef and now during the early morning we have just a bit of main sail out and about ¾ of Genoa out. We are mostly moving with the current of the swell which is coming from behind.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands
Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

After sunrise the wind has been more steady, no high peaks of gusts but the swell is more confusing and bigger with about 6 meter tall waves pushing us like a toy and they are coming from the sides and behind. The boat is rocking a lot more now but we just saw land! (12.00pm)

We are heading to Lanzarote Marina Rubicon, our original plan was to circle the island from the west but because of the wind and big swell Dave, our skipper, made the call to continue straight on the east side of the island. We just need to be careful as there are some rocks we need to avoid. ETA is somewhere around midnight.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

We have our shifts as normal but now someone else is also helping the person at the helm to know what kind of swell is coming and from which direction so we can predict better our next move at the wheel and try to keep the boat as balanced as possible.

We haven’t had any seasickness but this snakey ride is making us a bit dizzy, writing from the living room, got to move to the cockpit for some fresh air 😀


1am: We have finally arrived to Lanzarote, the feeling is incredible and even though we are crazy tired and it is late we had to finish it off with some celebration wine.

The last miles we went close-hauled with very nice 30-33kts gusts, the boat was way more easy to steer than when downwind so it was a really nice way to end the journey. It was a challenge to find the right entrance of the marina as it was all dark so the air got a bit tense but it turned out all good. Found the dock, group hug and big celebration time 🙂

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands

Navigation tools:

  • Navionics
  • Opencpn free navigation program
  • Predict wind for course and wind simulation
  • Iridium go, satellite phone
  • Estepona to Gibraltar

Final thoughts

Looking back at what we achieved, Salla and I would do it all over again and it is definitely something we would like to continue doing in the future. Very challenging conditions but that is what we wanted to get, the raw experience of what it takes to sail on unknown waters. Security measures, navigation systems, rigging the boat, getting to and out marinas.

Sailing Log From Gibraltar to Canary Islands
Land! Salla and Kuba at Lanzarote

And hey, no seasickness! 🙂 happy that I didn’t have to take any ginger tablets, hate that stuff. Seems we grew “sea legs” pretty quick on board.

But the cherry on top was the crew, these guys are amazing, we had so much fun with Allenie, Dave and Kuba. They are actually on the way to cross the Atlantic towards the Caribbean so they are going to continue having fun onboard. Wishing them all the best and a huge thanks for allowing us to become part of the team for this leg. It was just 9 days that we spent together but there is no better way to connect with people than on a boat with nothing else than ocean around you.

Caribbean update: Dave, Allenie, Kuba and their crew whom I haven’t met including Dave’s father, have made it to the Caribbean. So proud of them!

If you want to see all the highlights, photographs and videos check my highlighted story on my Instagram @_estebansoto_

Got any questions, feedback or more details that you would like me to include in here? Please let me know by writing a comment below or through Instagram.

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