Sailing to Morocco: Stress within the TSS

As we quickly tidied up the motorboat to get ready to sail from Gibraltar to Rabat, Morocco, we examined the charts closely to comprehend the route we might be using across the busy traffic channels inside Strait of Gibraltar. There have been a lot of frighteningly big ships moving throughout the display on AIS that our chart plotter appeared as if an arcade game of Frogger with red-outlined cars transferring two organized channels, threatening to squash me when I attempted to go over the strait.


If perhaps you were a child of this ’80s and ’90s, you could remember the overall game Frogger.

We might need certainly to pull in with the traffic movement going west, then nudge ourselves gradually south until an opening appeared wide sufficient for us to produce a 90-degree bee-line over the hectic traffic separation scheme (TSS) on north side of Africa. But I’d been viewing the cargo ships moving quickly throughout the display for the past half hour and there didn’t appear to be numerous possibilities for the little cruising ship to cut properly from one part to the other.

You will find few places in the world to purchase commercial traffic because hefty since it is in the Strait of Gibraltar, a slim conveyor belt operating vessels between Europe and Africa. But New York Harbor, in which we first learned to sail, is certainly one of those busy ports, so I ended up beingn’t extremely worried about the traffic we’d be experiencing. After many years of cruising close to nyc, we were used to being constantly vigilant, tacking and weaving between cargo vessels and ferries as we made our way out to Sandy Hook to anchor the week-end or headed up the Hudson River for the time.


Ryan, keeping a search for oncoming traffic to avoid.

As soon as we first started cruising, we conversed with every experienced sailor we met, gathering tips on weather, navigation, engine trouble and sailing to faraway places. And now we had been amazed within wide range of times we were told “never sail during the night when you can help it; it’s really dangerous.” We laughed because evening sailing in ny Harbor was certainly one of our favorite pastimes. With the famous Manhattan skyline lit up along the Hudson River, our watercraft had been constantly blanketed inside radiance of the town as if we were cruising under 100 moons. That which was everyone talking about – “sailing through the night is dangerous”? Sailing in busy traffic of New York was all we knew at that time, so that it scarcely seemed dangerous to united states.

It had beenn’t until we sailed away from nyc towards Bahamas and Caribbean in 2012 that people noticed how small sailing traffic exists on the market when you move away from New York Harbor. If you jump from the ocean, the thing is less than a number of ships on a daily basis. If you stay in the Intracoastal Waterway, you could spot some more ships, but between ports, traffic is scarce set alongside the areas around new york.

When I nudged the bow of Cheeky Monkey out into the Strait of Gibraltar, however, I was reminded how greatly surrounded with traffic we was previously and exactly how blissfully spacious the seas have been since we left ny. Pulling into oncoming cargo ship traffic into the strait ended up being instantly foreign and stressful and needed being vigilant on movements of countless vessels who all had right-of-way over our slow-moving vessel.


These vessels may look heavy and slow-moving, nonetheless they bear straight down quickly.

Kristi and I sat within helm, examining the AIS information of oncoming vessels and vessels whom approached quickly from all instructions, attempting our better to navigate a path that could be the least nuisance toward priority commercial traffic surrounding united states.

As we traveled west over the south coast of Spain with the movement, it seemed like there clearly was never likely to be a break inside shipping lanes for us cleanly from a single side of this purple TSS musical organization, which was marked clearly regarding the chart plotter, to the other. So we took 1st tiny opening we’d to show Cheeky Monkey at a 90-degree angle to your TSS.

To me, the TSS on my chart plotter seemed slim and easy sufficient to cross, though the traffic on either side for the purple musical organization did actually still be speeding densely at united states both in guidelines. TSS traffic moves such as a highway – the north type of traffic techniques from eastern to west additionally the south line of traffic moves from western to east. My challenge was to get across the traffic going west to east at rates 3 times faster than Cheeky Monkey so I could continue going southwest over the coast of Africa without getting into the way of anyone.

So when Cheeky Monkey’s little ship symbol reached others part associated with purple band on my on-screen game of cargo-ship Frogger, I breathed a sigh of relief and switched the ship to mind southwest again. Which is each time a noisy, stern sound came over VHF channel 16 saying, “Cheeky Monkey, Cheeky Monkey, Cheeky Monkey, you’re to maintain a 90-degree angle until you cross the TSS!”


Bird’s attention view associated with the Strait of Gibraltar from the scenic point in Gibraltar.

We looked over Kristi, confused. “We crossed it, didn’t we?” We zoomed in regarding the chart and looked again at purple band marking the traffic zone. I became pointing to a purple line running over the screen when Kristi zoomed away and pointed up to a second purple line operating over the bottom regarding the display screen just north of this coastline of Africa.

“Whoa! I thought that purple musical organization there was the TSS! It goes from that musical organization to the other musical organization?” We stated, with my hand upgrading and down the length of the display screen. “Shit!”

I had unexpectedly recognized my error if the radio piped up again, “Cheeky Monkey, Cheeky Monkey, Cheeky Monkey, what exactly are your motives?”

“Um, you want to go to Morocco?” I reacted in to the radio, flustered, as Kristi laughed hysterically at ridiculousness of my answer. Wear the spot, I had no concept what the yelling man meant by my “intentions,” but it most likely had beenn’t a journal of my day’s plans, or what I had been craving for lunch.

Having recognized I’d not, in reality, crossed the traffic separation scheme, I switched Cheeky Monkey back to a 90-degree angle and continued on a hair-raising course cutting between cargo vessels, placing both engines on complete throttle and speeding towards the North African coast as fast as I could go to avoid being hailed on the radio again.


Cheeky Monkey, pulling into the harbor in Rabat, well away from the TSS traffic.

99% of the time our company is out sailing, no matter what the waters our company is in, there is certainly ample room to go, cope with mishaps, change program and flake out, enabling the way associated with wind to determine the program towards our next location. it is often a peaceful, slow-moving process with this ship sailing along comfortably at a modest 6-7 knots without any one else coming.

But the traffic separation scheme inside Strait of Gibraltar jarred me personally out of that calm reverie and reminded me personally that vigilance and accuracy are paramount where traffic is dense and strict rules govern a safe crossing. We’d been sailing in empty waters for so long that i did son’t correctly anticipate just how hefty the traffic will be getting from Spain to Morocco.

If sailing inside ny Harbor was like addressing degree 3 of Frogger, then Strait of Gibraltar was Level 10. And I also didn’t have sufficient training in this game to consider exactly how not to ever get smashed by the oncoming automobile. Luckily, we got properly throughout the TSS and pulled into Rabat with no damage done. But next time i may just review my book of navigational rules before scuba diving to the delivery lanes once again.


After we got south of the TSS, it was smooth sailing all the way to Rabat, Morocco.