Originally Posted by multihullsailor6
Have a look at the book entitled "Straits of Gibraltar", it has the best local sailing info and should answer all your questions. Sheppards or the small chandlery / engine repair shop in Marina Bay (next to the laundry) will have it.
When I left Gib the last time heading for Portugal it was in a catamaran and it was forecast to blow E 6 so I didn't need to look at the tide situation at all, in fact we passed Tarifa under jib alone doing 14 - 18 kts downwind with a big grin on our faces.
Apart from the tidal atlas which you really should get (any chandler - Sheppards probably the best), the British Admiralty chart of the area is very good with regards to currents.
I have found that you should go with the Levanter - trying to fight the Esteponiente wind is a pig!
The reason you are getting different answers about the tidal streams is because they differ on the Spanish side to the African side. Taking HW Tarifa as the "bench mark", On the Spanish side, the E'ly flow begins at HW Tarifa, becoming up to 2kts Springs, 1 kt Neaps. The Westerly flow begins at HW Tarifa + 6. On the African side, E'ly flow starts at HW - 4 and Westerly, HW + 2. Once down the Straits, towards the Western end of the Separation Lane, roughly in the middle, the Easterly starts at HW-1 and the Westerly HW +5.
You have lots of room well outside the Traffic Lane for the 14-odd mile run down the Spanish side to Tarifa. If you do it in daylight, the majority of the Spanish fishing fleet will be in port selling their catch. Night time can get quite busy with erratic fishermen! You can stay on the Spanish side till the end of the Separation Lanes then cut across smartly to Africa - best done at slack water so that you are not "crabbing" across since you should cross at 90 degrees to the traffic.
The watchkeepers on the ships transitting the straits are alert and on their toes (unlike when they get a few thousand miles into the Atlantic where standards seem to drop). You'll hear lots of vhf chat between ships as they pass and/or overtake each other and if you happen to be worrying one of them, they'll very quickly let you know!
Its a lovely trip if you get it right!! Tony