Day trip to Morocco

Paul Huntley
Mon 20 Oct 2008 15:50

32:22.30N 09:14.25W

Bob's Blog

We have motor-sailed in the same dead calm conditions for over 300 miles. First night out we saw just two ships. It became evident that if these conditions prevailed we would not have sufficient fuel to get to the Canaries so we had to find somewhere to buy diesel. The Moroccan coast was the obvious choice but Paul was unable to obtain either detailed charts or a decent pilot book so we had to make a decision based on the information we had available on board. The port of Safi looked a good bet, it was listed in the list of ports which operated 24 hours and suited our course and speed because we would arrive just after dawn thus giving us plenty of time to safely navigate the entrance.

What a place Safi turned out to be! The floating detritus from the harbour entrance onwards was an indication of what was to follow. We called up port control on the radio and after answering a lot more than the usual questions were told to “come innnn”. It turned out to be a fair sized commercial port with a large fishing fleet. Before we even had chance to tie alongside an ancient trawler as instructed we were offered “very good codfish – cheap prices”. We were clearly a novelty – none of the posh yachties of Lagos here, just smiley faces and lots of rust.

Then the troops arrived. First the harbourmaster and his assistant, then a policeman on a moped, then another policeman on foot, then a man from customs, then the man who sold diesel (in cans, none of your pumped stuff that the fisherman had) then the bloke with the van who was going to ferry the fuel from the garage to the dock. Then finally the man from immigration in his van. Then the cabaret started. They all wanted our passports and the ships papers at the same time. The two policemen were the stars and nearly came to blows over who was going to take details first. Finally it was agreed that Paul would deliver the ships papers to the harbourmaster and the rest would proceed to extract every last detail from the four passports.

To present the papers, Paul had to clamber onto and across the trawler we were moored alongside, then over two enormous tractor tyres which were being used as fenders the final hurdle  was the harbour wall which was another  sheer  five foot wall without the luxury of either hand or foot holds. Rather like getting out of an empty swimming pool. At the third attempt, with a superhuman effort, he pushed himself up, swung his legs over and landed belly first at the feet of all the officials. Not the most elegant arrival in a foreign port!

Eventually the assembled company had extracted every conceivable detail from the passports which were then taken off by the immigration bloke in his van to be stamped. Half an hour later they were returned, passed around the assembled company again and finally returned to us.

Next the diesel. “We can’t use the pump the fisherman use for just 200 litres, will have to have cans from the local garage”. “We don’t want the cans, just the fuel”. Finally a deal was struck. “Can only get 4 cans in dad’s van, will have to make two trips”. Eventually most of the diesel was in the tanks, the rest was splashed over the teak decks and down everyone’s’ clothes. Enter an army of volunteers to clear up the shambles. A gallon of washing up liquid and our entire stock of chocolate bars later and the decks were clean.

With all the business done to everyone’s satisfaction the harbourmaster and policeman number one returned. “Any beer”? “Sorry, none left”.  “Any whiskey?” “No, all gone”. Any chocolate for the children?” (These guys were in their sixties!)  We managed to find some penguin bars that were sloshing about in the bottom of the fridge which done the trick and were handed over amid more smiles – job done. The whole robbery was conducted with great humour and politeness. We left harbour, lots of Euros and chocolate down to be met with the first decent wind for 3 days.  Hoisted sails in 12 knots of wind turned off the engine and sat back in the sunshine to reflect on a magnificent experience and another stamp in the passport.

All the best, Bob