Welcome to Africa!
Position: 23:41.18N 015:55.85W
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
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
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
P.S. Hot on the heels of Selina’s birthday yesterday is
the birthday today of Carri,
The first catch of many – we hope
Gutting and filleting
Passing a rusting Russian whaler on the approach to Dakhla
– Tom in the foreground