Bill and Judy Stellin
Wed 3 Oct 2007 20:00
Position 33:36,144N 007:36,323W
Casablanca, where did this stop come from. We know it was never in our
plans, but nevertheless, here we is. The reason is horrible weather on
route to the Canaries. ( Named after very large dogs that were found on
the islands, Latin for dog is canis). Now back to the weather.
As we were sailing, motoring, sailing, motorsailing, whatever, we had a line
of very high clouds to the west of us for over a day. At night they were lit up
with as intense lightening as we've seen in a long time. A little scary when it
kept up for hours on end. The line never moved, but the lightening would race
along the line from horizon to horizon. By morning, the clouds were still
there but now the wind and seas kicked up from the southwest, directly on
Cloud tops so high they are in the clouds. This line ran along side of us for 175 miles.
At night they were filled with lightening.
The wind was moderate and sailable, but the seas started coming
from every direction and they were huge. Swells sometimes were 12 feet or more
and wind waves breaking onto the bow as well as the beam. We were getting
the you know what kicked out of us but good. We decided to alter course for
Madeira to the west, (500 miles) but then we were headed for the cloud line with rain and
higher winds under them. Finally we changed course again more on a
southerly heading for Casablanca. We had no pilot book on this port and no
paper chart. Our electronic chart plotter did have detailed cartography on the
port and it was still daylight so we felt confident to enter. Trouble came when
we closed with shore, a rainstorm hit and made visibility poor at best.
When we got inside the breakwall, I radioed Casablanca radio and told them
we needed a berth. Harbor control told me it was impossible because there
were no facilities for private yachts, only monster commercial ships. This came as
no surprise as I was expecting only commercial ships could enter so I already had
rehearsed a reply which if need be would include hysterical crew who were afraid of
the sea. I had already told Judy of my plans, so if need be, start crying if they tell
us to leave. She was game for it and was already dabbing her eyes in preparation.
My reply was, "find something because we were treating the port as a harbor
of refuge". It worked and they directed us to a commercial wharf if we promised to
leave the next day.
We spent that night worrying the whole time because of surge from passing tugs pushing
us onto a concrete wall that had a surface like sharks teeth and could eat a fender
in one hour or less.
Plus there is a tide of over 2 meters here, which meant constant
watch on the length of our lines lest we pull deck cleats out as the tide fell.
We were not tied up for long before Immigration came to the boat and took our passports
and ships papers. The police officer was very polite and said he had to hurry because
he could now eat and he was starving after fasting for the day during Ramadan. Two hours
later he came back with our passports and two shore passes so we could leave the
boat. Right after that we were visited by five or six police who were just curious
about the American boat in their port with two old f---- crewing it.
Right after them, harbor control felt sorry for us and called us to tell us they had a
better place for us against a floating barge so we didn't have to worry about the
tides so much. We could also stay as long as we wished. I thanked them and said we would
move to the barge the next morning if we werestill here. A few minutes later some men approached us
asking if we needed anything. I mentioned we needed fuel so they took our jerry cans,
drove to a petrol station, filled them and brought them back. There is no fuel dock in this port
so it was a big help. They kept insisting we call them if there was anything else we needed or
that they could do for us. I have to say the people here are far more helpful than almost
anywhere we've been.
It ain't pretty but its safe and probably free as well.
After we cleaned up in the morning we went looking for a cash machine and internet.
No wifi here and cash machines only dole out the local currency called dirhams.
We stumbled onto the Tourist office and they mentioned also that we could arrange for
a tour with a guide, car and driver for 45 euros, two persons, which would take us to all
the important sites here in the city over a three and half hours period. I'd have to say
it was what you would expect from something that inexpensive and in sort of a third world
city and country. We had a good time, but what we saw was a little disappointing.
Our guide showing us a market where we bought about 2 pounds of olives for 1.60.
All of these guides think they have to take you somewhere to shop.
I am sure they get a cut of whatever you buy. This fellow finally understood
we were not on holiday, nor were we here to shop; we are in markets like this almost everyday, so
just show us the sights.
This is the first mosque we've been in where we were charged an entrance fee.
Our guide wouldn't pay it so we could only peek in the front door. Just as well, my feet
were killing me.
Not your everyday traffic in our part of the world. Here donkey carts vie for road
space with autos, trucks and the ever present motor bikes.
Friday morning the weather seemed much better so we left for Lanzarote, Canary
Islands. About a mile offshore there were several fishing boats plus the amazing
sight of two huge tractor tire tubes with a man in each fishing. They couldn't afford a
boat but the tubes seemed to substitute. If a storm came up and these guys were
pushed much further offshore, they would be goners.
As I write this, Casablanca is 200 miles behind us and we have about 225 more miles to go.
Weather has been very good, with light (now much too light) winds and smooth seas.
We have had to motor almost all the way and fuel management is now an issue. I think
we have enough if we have to motor the rest of the way. Otherwise, we will wait out the
wind and do what sailboats are supposed to do, sail.
Yesterday, I used our new Iridium sat phone to hook up to the internet so I could download
a weather file. It worked perfectly, albeit very slowly. So, I will wait until we get to land
before I send this and a couple of position reports for the Google Earth position on the blog.