For those of you who have been watching our track
you will have noticed that we finally escaped from Rota. As soon as the repaired heat exchanger was fitted,
we headed downhill, past Tarifa (one of the windiest places in Europe, apparently) and turned left towards the Med’. We
would have liked to do Tangier on the way but a levanter (infamous easterly
wind) was about to set in and we didn't want to get caught out on the wrong side
of the straits of Gibraltar. We had a quiet
passage, dull motoring throughout the night while David and I took watches.
David did manage to hook a large fish, but it got away before we could get it
into the cockpit and onto the BBQ. As dawn broke we had the misty outline of
Europe (Spain and Gibraltar)
to port and Africa to starboard. You could
smell Africa – an exotic
wood-fire-tinged-with-rubbish sort of smell.
The wind picked up as we entered the straits and
we managed 8–9 knots across the traffic separation zone under a reefed genoa
(dodging high-speed ferries and container ships). The Rock of Gibraltar and
Monte Hacho in Ceuta (opposite each other
across the straits) are the two legendary Pillars of
Hercules. The straits are famous for whales, but we only saw a
couple of dolphins hurrying past.
So, here we are in the Med’ – only a year later
than originally planned! Berthing in the marina at Ceuta was entertaining to
say the least. To be fair, it was still blowing pretty hard, plus this was our
first real experience of going bows-to using a lazy line (a line attached to the
dock at one end and an anchor in the marina at the other to stop the boat
surging forward onto the dock). This made for some interesting manoeuvres and
language (it isn't just Beth and Bryn's grasp of Spanish and French vocabulary
that is going to improve on this trip).
Hercules (and his pillars) guarding the entrance
to the harbour at Ceuta.
Once safely tied up, there was the issue of
getting off and onto the boat. I understand that the sight of me climbing over
the ironwork of the pulpit, around the genoa furling gear and teetering on the
anchor before making a leap for the dock was quite amusing – probably almost as
funny as the sight of me trying to get out of the water into a dinghy.
Apparently this is the norm in the Med (the going bows-to bit, not the
me-looking-daft bit), so we'll have to get a plank to do balancing tricks on! At
least there is no tide to go out, so we won't come back to climb down a slimy
ladder before launching ourselves at the anchor or vice versa.
The view from our berth in Ceuta Marina, with the
Atlas mountains behind.
Considering that it is a duty-free port, I can't
say that we found Ceuta particularly cheap (unless you want an
MP3 player or mobile phone) although fuel was only €1 per litre. A small beer
was €2 (everywhere, we were told). The cheapest beers we found were 70c out of
the Coke vending machine on the marina! Supermarkets were big but not much
cheaper than usual (for you supermarket junkies out there, we found a Spar, a
Lidl and a Supersol, and apparently there is an Eroski too).
Fishing, swimming and pirate
The fishing was good in the marina – both Bryn and
Bethany caught fish – and were introduced to the joys of gutting. Cheese appears
to be the thing that fish just can’t resist.
You might be small mate, but you’re
We had our first swim in the Med' – it was cold!
(probably because we were so hot). The beach was interesting, a bit like
builders rubble with shells mixed in, although there was real sand underfoot in
the (clear, turquoise) water.
Our first dip in the Med’.
Ceuta – like Gibraltar – is a bit of a boatie crossroads. We met a few
people heading west and met up again with folks (ALTIKA and SUZANNA), who, like
us, are working their way east. The children found some little French boys game
for a pirate battle (in full costume, of course!).
Next stop – Morocco!
After a couple of days in Ceuta we headed east towards Marina Smir in Morocco.
Me doing the Dance of the Seven Veils with the
We had heard that just entering Morocco
might involve lots of time, paperwork, hassle and baksheesh (we’d even been
advised to buy whisky and cigarettes with which to grease palms). We’d read that
Bethany and I would need to keep covered from neck to wrist and ankle, and that
Bryn and David would need to wear long trousers and proper shirts (T-shirts are
only worn as pyjamas in Morocco). You could say that we were a little nervous
about going to Morocco.
In boatie terms, around Europe (IALA system A, works for the rest of the world
except the states!), you keep green cones to starboard and red cans to port when
entering a harbour. As if to prove that we were no longer in Europe, there were some helpful red cones down the middle
of the channel into Marina Smir, which confused us for a while. We took a gamble
and went for the shape rather than the colour and nearly went aground when we
tried to keep them to starboard. Eventually a nice little man in a dinghy came
and showed us the way. Of course by this time we had worked out that it was
obviously the red colour we were supposed to be looking at, not the cone shape!
(Since this incident, David has seen a pile of green cones in the boatyard
getting a fresh coat of red paint…).
The entrance to Marina Smir, from the reception
In reality, entry formalities were quick, painless
and baksheesh-free. So far the locals have been very friendly and keep coming
over to the boat to say hello and have their photo taken in front of it. The
marina itself is large, clean and practically empty!
CAPE with the marina to
We managed to change money in one of the cafes and
got 11 dirhams to €1 (you can’t bring dirhams into or out of Morocco). We
splashed out on a mint tea (apparently the thing to drink here, given the lack
of alcohol in most bars and restaurants), complete with four individual teapots
with tea-cosies and glasses rather than cups to drink it from.
Bryn wondering whether he can get away with
wearing the tea-cosie for the photo.
The local camel.
There are unlocked wireless signals floating
around, but we haven't managed to actually connect using one yet. I’ve been
forced to a bar that serves alcohol to make use of their wi-fi signal to upload
this – I hope you appreciate the damage that I’m doing to my liver in the name
of the blog…