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Gibraltar Strait

General information

The Strait(s) of Gibraltar is the narrow body of water between the southern tip of Spain/British Overseas territory of Gibraltar and the northern coast of Morocco.  It is approximately 12 kms wide at its narrowest point.

It is tempting to say that the British control the straits but I suspect that this is not correct or at least not complete. Each country that controls a piece of land also has rights to the ocean surrounding that land. In the case of the straits of Gibraltar, the majority of the land bordering the water is part of Spain and Morocco with a minor portion being bordered by Gibraltar itself.

So I surmise that the straits are “controlled” primarily by Spain and Morocco with a minor portion being controlled by Gibraltar.

Of course this is open to interpretation when you consider the word “control”. If you are talking about military spheres of influence then the answer would probably be different (i.e. the Strait of Gibraltar is controlled by NATO forces – primarily Great Britain, USA and Spain).

Sailing in the Strait

The Strait of Gibraltar has been the subject of myths and legends since ancient times. The Romans believed it marked the end of the world and the entrance to Hades. Hercules is said to have created it by forcing the Atlas Mountains apart. He marked the entrance with two great pillars, one on each shore, and posted a warning—Nothing Lies Beyond. The Pillars of Hercules still stand—the Rock of Gibraltar on the European shoreline and the great mountain of Jabal Musa on the African coast.

On our way to Gibraltar and/or Africa we like to stop in Barbate, Spain, near the entrance to the Strait to catch the in-going tide and take advantage of a brief window of westerly winds.

To watch a golden sun rose up out of the Mediterranean Sea at daybreak as if welcoming us into a new world is a unique experience. Silhouetted by the rising sun is the majestic Rock of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean behind us. To port we can find European shore, and to starboard we got our first glimpse of Africa—the towering peak of Jabul Musa rising out of the morning mist.

The Strait has a steady stream from W to E so when we´re leaving the Strait back to Portugal its important to do a good passage planing, looking carefully to tides.


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