We were hoping to go to Rabat after leaving Portugal but the entrance isn’t safe in a swell apparently, and as we had 2—3 metres of the stuff, we headed further south (just north of Casablanca) to Mohammedia, which is safe to enter in any conditions. Mohammedia was OK in an ordinary, non-tourist town sort of way. The people were friendly and French was widely spoken; we found the Kasbah and lots of French bakeries. It was the Moroccan National Day while we were there and – judging by the number of mule and donkey carts collecting sheep and goat hides the next day – it was a bit of a meat fest.
Atlantic swell rolling in to crash into the Moroccan coast at Mohammedia.
The Atlantic coast of Morocco is famous for its long, sandy beaches and a flourishing surf scene. When we walked the beach in Mohammedia we only saw a couple of surf dudes, but plenty of football – there must have been at least a hundred games in progress along the waterline. The Moroccan’s have got the hang of plastic bags (they insist that you have one with every purchase), but they haven’t quite got to grips with dealing with the fallout, and everywhere is festooned with dead plastic bags and other rubbish. Among the debris (on the otherwise lovely sandy) beach, we came across some false teeth (Rosie we thought of you)...
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth...”
We left Mohammedia behind and headed downhill to Agadir. It wasn’t a bad passage – we sailed about 50%, but didn’t catch any fish, only some jellyfish snot (well that’s what it looked like). We arrived in Agadir in the early hours, nearly taking out half of the fishing fleet (as they don’t use their nav lights and are therefore invisible against the lights on land). We knew there was a marina somewhere, but couldn’t see the entrance in the dark so we anchored off the beach until it was light – we weren’t sure whether that was the right thing to do as you aren’t supposed to anchor anywhere in Morocco without permission. Luckily no-one came to arrest us and we went in to the marina the next morning.
Agadir marina basking in the winter sun; we never did find out the meaning of the Arabic on the hill (it probably says McDonalds ½ km this way...).
Agadir was more touristy and westernized compared with Mohammedia, with lots of restaurants, ice cream parlours and coffee shops on a wide promenade behind a long, sandy beach. We found a small covered market with produce downstairs, tourist tat, carpets, leather and souvenirs upstairs (“Ah Madam, you live on boat, so you don’t need a carpet. But if you did need a carpet, what colour would it be?”). The fish stalls/restaurants at the port were colourful and basic, and each one was linked to a specific fishing boat.
Wot, no tinned toms?
We did run out of tinned tomatoes while we were in Agadir – I think for the first time in my life and certainly for the first time since David has known me. The kids (all 3) tease me because I tend to put things away in ‘safe’ places for emergencies (a bit like a squirrel I guess). After I had turned the boat upside down and had failed to find a single tin secreted anywhere, the kids (all 3) were delighted and made a formal entry to this effect in the log book (complete with ship’s stamp and Captain’s signature). I have established that we still have plenty of tins of coconut milk though, as well as at least a year’s supply of dental floss. The added bonus of me rifling through lockers was that the real Italian flag turned up (the one that was hiding in a safe place when we were on passage from Greece to Sicily...).
We didn’t get as far as the souk (biggest in Morocco, apparently) as the weather deteriorated and we didn’t fancy it in torrential rain. We spent an uncomfortable week bouncing around in the marina waiting for a weather window to cross to the Canaries. The high winds whipped up the swell and turned the marina into a surging bath of chocolate milk – there was so much swell that I felt seasick tied up, and we didn’t dare start the engine as there was so much sand and mud in the water. We were quite lucky and escaped undamaged, but other boats had fairleads broken and cleats ripped out, and bits of the pontoons disintegrated around us. Further north in Casablanca, people were killed in flash floods. It would be good to go back to Morocco in better weather to explore places like Safi and Essouria, and to travel inland to Marrakesh and Fez – maybe next season if we are weather-bound in the Canaries with southerlies...
CAPE sloshing about in a bath of chocolate milk.
We did get together with Mike and Carolyn (PHANTOM LADY) and Alan (LIFE O’REILLY) for a few drinks and to meet ‘Scabby’ the rescue kitten (who – we found out later – had ringworm). Despite the name and the round bald patches, she is gorgeous, and will chase-the-raisin for hours with anyone who’ll play (http://www.phantomladysbigadventure.blogspot.com/).
Sail south ‘til the butter melts, then turn west
Trapped inside the boat by the weather, we followed Matt and his motley crew on MOJOMO on their passage across the Atlantic with the ARC as they attempted a scientific test of the navigational properties of butter http://blog.mailasail.com/mojomo/214. We did limericks for school, and traded rhyming abuse to keep their spirits up... (can only print a few of them ‘cos some were a bit rude).
There was an old sailor called Matt
Who sat at the back of his cat
When he played the fiddle
His songs turn to riddles
That clever old Matt on his cat.
There was an old sailor called Matt
Who went on the ARC on his cat
His crew said ‘head west’
So Matt did his best
But they still ended up in Rabat.
There was young lad called Bryn
Whose toes were terribly thin
When he used them as tweezers
His mum had two seizures
And drank a whole bottle of gin
There was a keen sailor called Glyn
Who was partial to shark soup plus fin
He dangled a lure, and caught a Great White to be sure
And almost went in for a swim.
There was an old man called Dave
Who found a dead w***e in a cave
He said "it's disgusting! She only needs dusting!
And think of the money I'll save!"
There was a young woman called Laura
Who saw the world laid before her
She set off with Matt on his dirty great cat
But found that his fiddling bored her.
Then Beth got a stomach bug, followed by me. By this time we’d had enough and we set off as soon as there was a weather window and I’d stopped chucking (and the Moroccan authorities would let us go – 4.5 hours to check out!). Poor Bryn went down with the bug on passage...
Agadir in the rain.
The Canaries: La Graciosa and Lanzarote
We arrived at the northern end of the Canaries chain at La Graciosa, but as there wasn’t any room in the marina Caleta del Sebo and as the strong southerlies were due to return, we pushed on to Marina Rubicon (at Playa Blanca) on the south coast of Lanzarote. The scenery along the hostile west coast of Lanzarote was fantastic – every hill is obviously a volcano and the black lava fields end abruptly at the sea.
Volcanoes and lava fields.
Playa Blanca itself is a bit plastic – touristy, but clean with a few little supermarkets (but lovely loos and showers in the marina), with a fake volcano hotel complete with ‘lava’. We were stuck here for a week waiting for the southerlies to stop blowing so that we could continue south, but at least the wind was warm (25° C during the day).
Marina Rubicon and The Volcano Hotel (tastefully illuminated at night with ‘lava’).
The resort of Playa Blanca teeters on the edge of crust of black and red volcanic ash.
From Lanzarote we sailed down the east coast of Fuerteventura, anchoring overnight off the beach at Las Playitas.
Anchored off the black beach at Las Playitas.
The next morning we hitched a ride in one of the wind acceleration zones that develop at the south end of the islands, which gave us a fast sail across to Gran Canaria. We caught a weever fish (too small to eat, so we put it back) and two large barracuda (didn’t have a net large enough to land them, and they were too narrow to gaff, so they got away). The most exciting moment was having a huge (3–4 metre) Risso’s dolphin swim alongside for a few minutes.
Gran Canaria: Las Palmas
We had a nose around the anchorage when we first arrived and said hello to MOLLYMAWK (whose website I have been following since before we left the UK www.yachtmollymawk.com) before booking into the marina for the Christmas period. There were a couple of boats that we’d met before (GREEN FLASH, GAIA, AQUAMARŸN, HEYMEDE) and more turned up in the run up to Christmas (PHANTOM LADY, LIFE O’RILEY). The marina in Las Palmas is huge (1,200 berths) and is alongside the city, with the anchorage and a small beach next door. The commercial port is buzzing with activity and there is always something interesting moving around – drilling ships, container ships, survey boats, cruise liners, tugs and so on. For such a busy port, the water has been crystal clear so far – we spotted a huge octopus in the marina; it changed between mossy green, pale pink and white as it oozed over the rocks.
Octopus oozing over the rocks in the marina.
We have done a bit of exploring and have found the produce market, supermarkets, Chinese shops and chandleries (mainly window shopping as funds are low and we have our own austerity measures in place). We found John Lennon on the main beach, which was heaving with people in various shades of blue through bright red, getting their dose of winter sun.
We found John Lennon lurking on the main beach (not bad for a sand castle!).
There has been quite a crowd of boat kids – all of roughly the same age – and the most we’ve ever seen in one place since we left the UK. It is strangely quiet here in the mornings while all the kids ‘do’ school of one form or another, then they all emerge to build sand sculptures, fish for shrimps, play baseball, beach Olympics, British bulldog, swim, sword fight and kayak.
The music continues. We were invited onto MOLLYMAWK for supper and music one evening, and had a crowd here on CAPE another night – it was pretty squished in the cockpit with 12 people plus 2 guitars, a fiddle, drums and a bodhran. The kids retired to AQUAMARŸN for a bit of peace and quiet and a DVD.
Christmas – bah, humbug
I have to admit that I found it quite hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year (just call me The Grinch, B, B and D do) – perhaps it was the fact that the weather was so warm and sunny, and the Spanish don’t go in for lots of Christmas displays in the shops. I finally gave in 5 days before the big day and let B & B put the decorations up while listening to ‘The Best Christmas Album’ followed by ‘The Best Christmas Album – Ever’, in a continuous loop with the monotony broken by ‘The Best Rock Christmas Album’ (aaargh!).
We had a family conference on what to have for Christmas dinner and decided on onion bahjis, tandoori chicken, keema naans, raita and Madras aubergines. So Christmas Eve was spent marinating, stuffing, chopping and cooking while listening to the Christmas CDs. The kids (D, B & B) have been badgering me to let them have outside Christmas lights since we left, and I finally caved in and let them spend some of the Christmas budget on a yellow rope light. You’ll be delighted to learn that we can now relax in the cockpit in the evenings to 7 different light settings, ranging from subtle static glow (my personal favourite) to epileptic-fit inducing fast flash or a random mixture of all 7 modes.
By the time Christmas Day had arrived I had got over my Grinch moment and we had a lovely time. After Buck’s Fizz, we spent the morning on the beach for cricket, potato and spoon races and kayak racing with other mad boaties, and we had our Indian feast in the cockpit in the evening by the light of subtle static glow.
The kids at the start of the potato and spoon race.
Bryn and Marÿn pipping Peter and Marjolein to the post in one of the kayak races.
David came in first but was disqualified (for ramming the other kayaks).
Dave (HEYMEDE) dunking Carolyn (PHANTOM LADY) ‘cos it was her birthday on Christmas Day (that is one brave man...).
Beth going for a Christmas swim (photo courtesy of HEYMEDE).
Vital statistics for 2010
New Year’s Eve is always a time for reflection and crystal ball gazing. Looking back over 2010, we left Messolonghi in Greece on 24 March, and arrived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria on 13 December – getting out of the Med has given us a longer sailing season. We have travelled 2,933 nautical miles this year, bringing our total since leaving Aberystwyth in April 2007 to 9,235 nautical miles. We have a pontoon BBQ planned to welcome 2011, and after that...
Late breaking news
PAX NOSTRUM has arrived here in Las Palmas, and the ringworm is now fading from Beth’s face and David’s neck...
We’d like to thank Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson Ltd who are kindly sponsoring us by providing charts and pilots for our trip www.imray.com.
You can get in touch with us via smith dot cape at gmail dot com.
© 2010. All materials (text and photographs) in this blog (unless stated otherwise) are the property of Sarah and David Smith. Copyright and other intellectual property laws protect these materials. Reproduction or retransmission of the materials, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, is a violation of copyright law.