Orca attacks in Straits of Gibraltar

This is relayed from the Cruising Association, with permission.

I am a professional delivery skipper.
In the past 2 weeks there have been 5 attacks by Orcas on sailing yachts up to 45 feet in the Gib and SWMed areas.

I was skipper of one of the boats attacked. All suffered damage to rudders and steering gear. 3 had to be towed into port.

My boat was attacked for 45 mins in a position 15 nm 280 degrees from Tarifa. We were 6 miles offshore heading east under power, it being flat calm with mod visibility.

Having been up during the night I was called on deck when the helmsman felt the wheel go hard over of its own accord. Initial thought was a fishing pot. I had the engine put to neutral then we saw a pod of 4 orcas was ramming our rudder. 2 of them got red antifouling paint on their foreheads from impact with our yacht.

Tarifa suggested trying to motor away from the orcas so we re-engaged the engine. The force of their ramming underway nearly dislocated the helmsman's shoulder and spun the whole yacht through 120 degrees in a few seconds.

I therefore shut down the engine and the echosounder. After about 15 minutes the orcas left and when they were clear we continued to Gibraltar (La Linea). The damage to our steering was sufficient to require a liftout to fix and abandonment of the delivery.

The other boats involved lost all or part of their rudders.

I have been in touch with Orca Research bodies and can find no reason for or defense against these attacks.

I have video of the attacks on my boat and photos of the damage on others.

Please promulgate this and make sure that as many as possible are aware of this danger in the Straits of Gib and approaches.

Keith Pettcian

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