Our new friends waved us off as we left Cadiz, they were surprised we were going so soon. With slight trepidation we headed south across the Strait of Gibraltar to a new country, a new continent: Africa.
The wind direction was perfect for Caramor and she took off. It also enabled us to stay out wide of the point and therefore miss the worst of the shipping lanes. We listened on Channel 16 of the VHF radio to 'the clash of the titans' as hundreds of cargo ships try to squeeze through the Strait at the same time. The lingua franca may be English but the accents are from all over the world with one thing in common; no one is prepared to give an inch to avoid a collision and yet somehow they pass through.
"This is Radio Gibraltar, you are now in British territorial waters, please state your intentions." came a voice in perfect BBC English - how quaint!
Our ship's log reads: "20:25 can see Cape Trafalgar behind and Cape Spartel (Africa) off the port bow!"
Night descended. Big ships are always a worry but they are well lit, it was the Moroccan fishing boats we were concerned about. Franco spotted red flashing lights which turned out to be some sort of platform, maybe for gas? they were neither marked on the charts nor in the pilot.
3am, my shift, more red flashing lights, I watched them carefully as we drew near, suddenly I realised they were less than a hundred metres from the boat, rather than the mile I had thought. Our powerful torch revealed a fishing net, luckily Caramor passed on the right side. We must have been at least 30NM out at sea.
The wind died at 4am and we motored. We could just make out the Moroccan coastline in the distance.
The wind picked up again early afternoon and we were able to sail the rest of the way to the entrance to the Bouregreg river between Salé and Rabat.
We have often joked that if Caramor is called up on VHF we may actually fail to understand the accent. Not such a joke afterall as we struggled to comprehend the Moroccan coastwatch station calling to check whether we were friend or foe. We must have passed the test because an escort launch was waiting for us on the Bouregreg bar to escort us up river. My orders were 'no less than 3m under the keel' but as the launch guided us into the unmarked channel, the depth reduced to 0.8m.
A Moroccan feast of the senses, Rabat medina (fortified town) to starboard, the multi-coloured old town of Salé (infamous for piracy) to port, a narrow river with hundreds of young men swimming everywhere including across our bows (despite the threats issued by our escort), fishing boats entering and leaving, rowing ferries crossing between the two cities, in one word: chaos! We wanted to slow down and take it all in; the colours, the sounds, the smells but we had to keep motoring to keep up our speed against the ebb.
Once tied up to the arrival pontoon, Franco went off to fill in the multitude of forms in quintuplet, I was politely told that as a women I wouldn't be needed.
On Sunday we explored Salé medina and wandered for hours through the souk, a maize of narrow streets where we bought a kilo of onions for 3 Dirhams (14DH = 1£) and a grilled sardine 'sandwich'. We also sampled the best of French pâtisserie.
In the evening we set off in search of a 'tagine'. We found roast chicken, pizza, pasta, but no tagine. We returned to one of the posh restaurants near the marina which some French yachties had recommended - no tagine, instead excellent French fare. As I was finishing off my desert of 'Nougat glacé' I realised I had been using my left hand (a definite faux-pas in many countries). I swopped to my less dextrous Right and was struggling to clean up my plate (well that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it). The waiter rushed over, "you clearly like our nougat, it is excellent indeed, you must have more", he dashed off and came back with a second helping and two spoons!
Our friend Cordelia will be arriving in a few hours' time and tomorrow we will set off for the M'Goun area of the High Atlas for a week's trekking.