Welcome to Africa!

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Tue 27 Oct 2009 18:04

Position: 23:41.18N 015:55.85W

Date & Time: 27 October 2009 1400 UTC


The fish we had caught were Atlantic Bonito and they are, apparently, a great (in every sense of the word) aunt of the mackerel. Very tasty it was too. There is something about the chemical change in fish meat such that when you take a fish out of the sea and put it straight into the pan, the flavour is incomparable compared with the same fish cooked only an hour or so later – let alone a day or two later. Superbe, as we say in French.


Dakhla is set in a bay behind a peninsula. So having run down the peninsula, dodging more and more small rickety fishing boats, and passing half a dozen rusting Russian whalers, we turned the corner and had an exhilarating beat for five miles up to the anchorage. About half the fleet were already in so, given that we had passed (for the second time) the other half of the fleet in the latter stages of the rally, we were not unhappy with the result.


After the traditional (on Mina2) “anchor nip” we went ashore to be processed by the assembled bureaucracy. The process of clearing in and out of countries is complex in most places. But Morocco has raised the barrier to a magnificent level. Assembled round a table at the hotel which is hosting the rally fleet were no less than nine officials representing police, immigration, customs, harbour authorities and God knows who else, who pounced on the various documents I had brought ashore: ship’s registration papers, insurance certificates, passports etc etc. Each in turn asked the same questions, so the process took a while. Once finished, and only slightly disappointed that none of my crew had been arrested for some technical irregularity (which would have made an excellent story for the blog) we celebrated with a very small beer. They cost £5 each. You certainly wouldn’t want to develop a hangover here.


Exhausted, we returned to the boat in the evening for a light meal and a good night’s sleep. Surprisingly it turned distinctly chilly in the night and, for the first time in months, I needed to pull the duvet over me. I suppose that is the desert influence – scorching during the day and freezing at night.


This morning we went ashore for a rally meeting and have booked a day’s excursion tomorrow into the desert in 4x4’s on which I will report anon. After which we went for a walk around the small town. What can one say about Dakhla? The town has a population of 100,000; it is hundreds of miles from any other town and survives purely on its fishing exports and a small amount of tourism (it is a centre for kite-surfing apparently). For all I know it is wealthy by Moroccan standards, but through inexperienced Western eyes it seems quaintly ramshackled. Exclusively Muslim, almost all the women and most of the men are dressed traditionally. The shops are stocked with sacks of every kind of pulse, herb, spice and loads of other things I didn’t even recognise. All very colourful, and there is no doubt that we have now left Europe behind us. It’s all very exciting.


One task which HAS to be completed before we reach malarial mosquito country is the construction of our mosquito netting to drape over the cockpit. It has been preying on my mind. Wandering through the streets of Dakhla we passed a shop selling sewing machines run by a charming young man called Mucharaf. We explained our problem and asked if he knew of someone who could come to the boat, measure up and then take the netting away to sew it all together?.Yes, he knew just the person. Wheeled through the backstreets, we were introduced to an even younger Mahommed, who spoke very little French and even less English. He was delighted  by the dinghy ride out to the anchorage, measured up the netting to go over the sun shade over the cockpit like a tent, and also two other nets to go over the windows at the front of the saloon, and then came the tricky negotiations about price. He said it would all cost 150 Dirhams (about £15) and would be ready tomorrow. Assuming he will do the job satisfactorily (only time will tell) this was about 1/10th of the price it would have cost anywhere else so rather than entering into a long bargaining process, I simply shook his hand and he went off with all the materials. As I say, time will tell.


This morning, Malcolm & James on “Vita” told us that Steve, their fellow crew-member and a vet, was laid up in bed with a face like a pumpkin suffering from a tooth abscess. Fortuitously, Tom is a dentist and offered to go and have a look at him. There would seem to some professional rivalry between vets and dentists which became evident only when Tom went off in the dinghy to visit his new patient armed only with a small packet of anti-biotics and a large cash box for his fee.


One of the great things about being part of a community of extremely experienced cruising folk is that we are able to pick up all sorts of hints and tips from each other. For instance, when cruising in distant parts with few if any facilities for yachts one has to be even more diligent about the use of precious resources, such as fresh water on the boat. Dieter was telling me that he restricts shower running times by listening to the electric water pump thumping away and after 30 seconds simply turns it off. Voila! No more water. Excellent idea. I tried this today when Tom went into the shower. 30 seconds – off. After a few minutes Tom came out of the shower covered in soap and complaining that the water had ran out. “Not run out – rationed” I said. Tom is no longer talking to me. Oh – the loneliness of command.


We leave for Dakar in Senegal on Friday morning and it may be that there will be no blog updates until then. Meanwhile, dear readers, I leave you with a photograph of one of our catches – the first of many I hope.


P.S. Hot on the heels of Selina’s birthday yesterday is the birthday today of Carri, Lawrence’s wife. Happy Birthday Carri, from all of us on Mina2 !



Welcome to Western Sahara by Moroccan fishermen



The first catch of many – we hope



Gutting and filleting



Passing a rusting Russian whaler on the approach to Dakhla

– Tom in the foreground