SW Spain: Orca Interactions Sink Another Yacht

A third yacht has been sunk due to damage inflicted by orcas, this time off Barbate in SW Spain. If you are planning to transit this coast, don’t miss the free CA webinar on orcas and yachts on 18 May.

Published 3 weeks ago, updated 2 weeks ago

The ‘Alboran Champange‘, with four crew onboard, was on route from Madeira to Benalmadena (south of Malaga on the Mediterranean coast of Spain), when it encountered a pod of Orca that reportedly damaged the yacht’s rudder.

The Salvamento Maritimo Centre in Tarifa co-ordinated the rescue of the four crew members after they abandoned their yacht when it began to take on water.

The incident reportedly occurred about half a mile from Barbate in the early hours of the morning of May 4th.  All four crew were safely transferred to the Port of Barbate. The yacht could not be towed as is was completely full of water and sank 300m from the coast.

Read the CA interaction report about this incident here.

Read (in German) a report by yacht.de

Increased Activity South of Barbate

Cruising yachts are reporting daily on the Orcinus App and the Orcas.pt WhatsApp group of increased orca activity to the south of Barbate (in the region of position 36°05’11.80″ N, 06° 00’20.52″ W).

If transiting this area, a useful contact is orca research vessel “Nashira” of CIRCE who are currently working in this area and operate on AIS and VHF Channel 71, as well as posting on the Orcas.pt WhatsApp group.

The Cruising Association note that all of the interactions that have been reported in this area recently have occurred in a water depth greater than 40 metres and the CA data at www.theca.org.uk/orcas/reports (comparative data tab) highlights the increased risk posed by traveling in deeper water.

With care it is possible to pass through the area in, or near to, the 20m depth contour, however wind, sea state and tides need to be considered with regard to the possibility of being disabled near to shore or shallows and the huge tuna nets need to be avoided (it is understood to be possible to pass inside the net at the  Barbate harbour entrance.)

From discussions amongst yachts on the Orca.pt WhatsApp groups, current advice from fellow cruisers seems to be:

– Transit in no more than 20m depths (i.e. very close to the coast)
– If you see orcas turn away and leave the area at full power in the direction of shallow depths
– Don’t sail during the night in hotspot areas
– Motorsail in hotspots

The CA is also calling for Passage Reports from anyone sailing this coast between Barbate, Tarifa and Cap Spartel, both eventful and uneventful (just as important). The form is available in four languages at www.theca.org.uk/orcas and should take only 10-15 minutes to complete. Please detail any deterrent or avoidance methods used in the comments section, which are publicly displayed for any sailors and scientists looking for solutions.

The information will be used in the CA comparative data and comment gathering project.

CA hosts free Webinar on Orca and Yachts

The Cruising Association is holding a Free Zoom webinar at 1900 hours (GMT) on Thursday 18 May 2023.  ‘Orca and Yachts: Fact, Fiction and Fear’ led by the CA’s expert Regulatory & Technical Services group (RATS).

“The situation is naturally of great concern to the sailing community and the CA is committed to sharing knowledge and enhancing research on the phenomenon of orca interactions along the Iberian Peninsula, “said Luissa Smith from the CA.

“The webinar will be presented by John Burbeck, member of RATS and lead of the Orca project group, who will share valuable insights on the current understanding gained from Orca experiences in 2022 and 2023.”

Members and non-members will need to register in advance to join via Zoom;


See the Noonsite Orcas and Yachts page for useful links and news.


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