Trans-Atlantic trawlers all arrive in Gibraltar

The first-ever trans-Atlantic trawler rally concluded in Gibraltar on June 27, all 18 boats having arrived safely.The Nordhavn Atlantic Rally departed Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 16 and 17. The vessels made the 3,800-mile voyage with two stops, one in Bermuda and another at Faial in the Azores, before being battered on the final approach to the Strait of Gibraltar.

Like a modern version of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White fleet of 1907, the rally of Nordhavn trawlers crossed the Atlantic from Florida to Gibraltar in late spring, making stops in Bermuda and the Azores.
   Image Credit: Courtesy Nordhavn

The last leg was reportedly the roughest. On the final two days of the voyage, the fleet experienced 35-knot headwinds, made all the more fierce by the strong currents around the Strait, according to Jim Leishman, vice president of Pacific Asian Enterprises, makers of Nordhavn trawlers and sponsors of the rally.

There were reportedly no serious incidents, but about half of the fleet — those vessels using active stabilizers — experienced mechanical difficulties with the equipment and required repairs while in the Azores.

The fleet reported generally fine weather, having experienced mild conditions for most of the crossings, with winds typically abaft the beam.

The rough approach to Gibraltar was reportedly exacerbated by commercial ships entering and exiting the sea lanes that serve the Mediterranean. Describing the ordeal online, one skipper explained how the fleet navigated its way through the traffic with the assistance of one trawler skipper’s use of AIS, or an automatic identification system, which — as now required by the International Maritime Organization for some commercial vessels — offers the name, description, course and speed of every commercial vessel in the vicinity. The trawler skipper, who apparently had no qualms about asking commercial vessels to alter course to avoid the fleet of trawlers, effected a Moses-like parting of the ships, according to Ken Williams aboard the Nordhavn Sans Souci, who had been worried about how to confidently interpret the traffic targets on his radar screen.

“Chris would ask the freighter(s) to change their course so that we might pass by safely,” Williams wrote. “My favorite was an exchange last night, where the freighter immediately agreed to make a turn to starboard. This wasn’t sufficient for Chris (the skipper using AIS), who then demanded to know exactly how many degrees and when the turn would commence. We then watched in amazement as this freighter and another large freighter maneuvered to avoid striking each other, after having changed courses to avoid coming too close to us.”

Numerous other reports from skippers and crew describing their adventures are also posted on the site,

By Ocean Navigator