The thought of heading from Europe to Africa in a yacht may cause some yachtsmen a little anxiety but there is a gentle introduction. Make Ceuta your first destination on the African continent.
Ceuta is one of nine pieces of Spanish territory on the African continent. It is a relic of empire and dynastic interchange. Only two of the territories have populations, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Ceuta can be found 13nM 169 deg from Europa Point, Gibraltar. Ceuta is an interesting mix of Europe and Africa with all the advantages of both and few of their disadvantages. It is secure, there are western facilities and restaurants but also the excitement, food, smells and sights of Africa. The marina – Marina Hercules – is relatively small so it pays to reserve your berth before arrival.
The sail across from GIbraltar is relatively easy. There is nearly always plenty of wind in the Straits to get the average sailing yacht across in 2/3 hours. The prevailing winds are either easterlies or westerlies so the sail across will generally be a beam or close reach. There are two hazards that any skipper needs to consider. The first, based on my experience, is that you should always add 10 knots of wind mid-Strait to any forecast for the area. It is best to set off under-canvassed than have to reef in the middle of the Straits. Secondly, the Straits of GIbraltar is one of the busiest stretches of water on the planet so be sure to maintain a sharp lookout at all times. Even when you are the “stand on” vessel you have to be aware that some of the very large tankers and container ships are constrained by draft or by the vicinity of other large vessels to be able to give way. Finally there is generally an East going current that can vary between 0.5 knot and 3 knots. This will require you to steer a heading which is some 30 degrees further West in order to make the crossing in one tack.
Ceuta benefits from being adjacent to Morocco. Exotic Moroccan food can be found there. In general restaurants are cheaper than on the mainland. Try Centro Gallego by the seawater moat by the city walls or for typical Moroccan food take a taxi ride to “The Oasis” for stunning views across the Straits to Gibraltar.
From Ceuta a yachtsman can consider a cruise South and then East along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco or West towards Tanger and the opening of the Straits to the Atlantic. Ceuta will have been a gentle introduction to your African cruise.