Winds in the east, mist coming in....

Kirsty and Lee's Excellent Adventure
Lee Matthews
Thu 18 Oct 2012 11:02
34:1.79N 6:49.32W
Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin.
Well what a week so far it has been. We were stuck working frantically on Jon Jon when the wind changed and it gave us an opportunity to leave. But first I had something extra to do and proposed to Kirsty (about time is most of the comments I have had from my closest friends) . She said yes and we are both very happy. But it wasnt without its hilarity! With the brief weather window we were given I had only 48 hours to purchase ring (see photo) and find some suitable place. Kirsty doesnt like Gib but to do it away from Gib meant that if said expensive item didnt fit then I was stuffed. So I asked Kirsty if she wanted to have one last trip up the Rock (as far from Gib as you can get without leaving it!) and did the deed there. Now the rock is famous for many reasons, one of them being the lazy bag theiving monkeys that live there (no not the spanish tourists,  the real apes) So having proposed, got a yes, found out the ring was a tiny bit too small, I hadn't planned for the eventuality of walking back down with said expensive item in bag with lazy bag theiving monkeys jumping around us trying to ruin our day. But we got back in time to down chamapgne tidy boat and leave on the East wind.
We set off Tuesday for Rabat, capital of Morocco.  Good time to test out the water maker and the windvane steering system. Both worked well "Steady Eddie" was magnificent, it makes such a change to buy something that works first time no faffing about and the motion of the boat is fantastic in a strong sea compared to when "Debbie"(autopilot)  is steering as being electronic and not mechanical she is a bit weaker and takes more time to respond. (see vid We even ordered a weather forecast via satellite phone!! amazing to think we can now do this anywhere and keep in touch with you all.....and Balham has been testing  the FREE text service from the iridium website which I have emailed you all. (thanks Chris)
The weather forecast in the straits was a useful as ever.... wind E 3/4 ......err wrong ...try 6/7 sustained and we flew out through Tarifa deeply reefed with no way of going back.....(enjoy the sailing terms Chris).  Before  we crossed the straits I heard a PAN PAN urgency call to look out for a dinghy full of people lost in the straits.This happens a lot as illegal immigants try to enter Spain and we ususually ingore them. Just as we reached Africa Kirsty called to me to have a look at something. There was a dinghy full of people ! I immediately tried to call Tarifa Radio with the position who deal with Search and Rescue on the radio, we had little or no chance of rescuing them the wind was F7 at the time and waves were 2m high.  This believe it or not is the conversation (abridged for time and ease of reading ignoring technical radio terms) .....
Me: " Tarifa Radio this is Jon Jon I have sighting of your dinghy."  TR:" what is you call sign please" Me:"MEJL5"  TR:" can you repeat"  Me:" MEJL5"   TR: "Sorry what was that again"  Me: "MEJL5 I have sighting of your dinghy you are looking for" TR:" Sorry was your call sign MELJ52  Me: "No MEJL5 what does it really matter?" after which there was silence and then I called again and got some one sensible. By which time we had been blown a long way from the dinghy. We were asked to go back and assist but there was no chance without putting ourselves at risk so I declined. We tried to heave to but couldnt see the dinghy in the waves. I quickly called Tarifa again and using my AIS which gives ships locations and phone numbers (which Tarifa also have!!!)  saw a ship heading towards the location. I gave the number and call sign to Tarifa who called them and they located the Dinghy and we watched from a distance as the helicopters arrived and rescued them. We still don't know what they were doing there and I wasnt even sure if they were the ones that needed rescuing until sometime later as the S&R arrived Kirsty said...."I did wonder why they were waving at us with an oar and and orange flag!!!"  An hour later Tarifa called us to thank us and let us know all were safe. 
We carried on to Morocco and as night drew in the wind died and we motored along a black featureless coast. We started our shifts, as per usual on my shifts I had all the dramas with the enormous fishing fleets. In Morocco lights on fishing boats seem to be an optional extra and your radar becomes v v useful. That said I still had 2 close calls, one with an unlit  trawler coming out of the night both side arms out like an angel of death sweeping towards us and another one at dawn when I saw 2 red flashing lights. A lot of the small boats just flash a coloured light of any description. I asusmed it was 2 small fishing boats about 1/4 mile from each other and headed between them. Wrong!!! as I got within 100 yrds I was flashed by one boat with a bright light. I checked the binoculars again and just made out it  was actually a buoy holding the other end of the boats nets!!! After some sharp manouvering  I passed round  them and got more angry flashing from the boat in question. At this point not up for an argument I carried on. We found a lot more of these netted boats but none of them had nets out that far. In comparison ...Kirsty on her watch had time to clean the fridge, read a book etc which is what usually happens
We reached Rabat at low tide. Not a good time to enter this port with its sandbanks and breaking waves so we sat out on anchor and waited for the very friendly harbour staff to come and guide us in at mid tide. We went in about 1 mile up river and then went on the waiting pontoon to be checked by customs/police/dodgy guys in no uniform types. It seems here in Rabat waiting pontoon means just that ....3 hours searches and sniffer dogs later they let us in!! its a nice marina and the scenery is stunning with minarets and towers all around telling us how great God is 5 times a day. With the river and walls of the old medina it is very ethereal though.
We are going to stay here and ride out a storm food and mooring is cheap, haven't found beer yet but i am going to try today! Tomorrow  off to Marrekesh on the Marrakesh Express ...all aboard!!

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