Saturday, 28 September 2013

Rabat to the Canaries

We left Rabat around 13.00hrs and settled into a comfortable routine for our night passage. The wind died in the night which meant 10 hours of motoring arriving in El Jadida around 10am. Unfortunately there was no room on the jetty so we anchored up with stern lines ashore.
Kika , in the firing line.

On arrival the usual rigmarole with police, the port and customs took all morning so we had a look round town in the afternoon. The old Portuguese fortress enclosing the Medina is impressive and maintained with a grant from the Portuguese government. The cannons however are gradually rusting away in the sea air.

Old relics on the ramparts. There were rusting guns too!

 After visiting the local Souk we walked into the Hotel Andulusia a very scruffy building on the outside to be rewarded with the most fabulous interior. The Spanish Muslim Andalusians when they got kicked out of Spain after the Moorish defeats either became very effective pirates or built wonderful buildings in an Andulusian style. We enjoyed mint tea in the courtyard reclining on large cushions, and then repaired to a cafe on the beach , famous with Moroccan holiday makers for its Cornishe where everyone promenades in the evening. Instead of seaside donkeys you can send the kids on a camel ride.
Mint tea, at the Hotel Andulucia 

Dubious customers taking tea , its not a brothel, honest!

Thursday found us a short taxi ride way at the Royal Golf Course a beautiful place a thousand miles away from the dirt, smell and disorganisation of El Jadida. We did 9 holes and each had a caddy. My lad Mustafa was brilliant. He could see I was rubbish and told me exactly what to do and what I was doing wrong and went into ecstasy every time something good happened. He also improved the lie of the ball when it arrived in the rough! (local rules)Result won 5 euros off James and Colin who suffered when their long range drives with the woods went off course. The course  passed lakes with fountains and had splendid views across out across the bay and the white surf of the Atlantic rollers coming in.

With Mustafa, the caddy who secured the game for Jon

First tee, Royal Golf Club El Jadida

 In the evening we caught up with Mike and Simon in their Najad at the fish restaurant and scrambled up Mikes mast in the morning to look at a malfunctioning wind indicator.

Very tempted to leave the sod up there!

We departed El jadidaFriday 20th September at 11.30 for Essouria and just avoided being charged for another day by the port officer who came after us in his launch. The marina prices were very expensive for nearly zero facilities and a lot of paperwork. Our overnight passage was marked by engine failure. We waited till the morning when it was light . The filters looked Ok and there was no water in the fuel we picked up from Rabat so James diagnosed  a tank breather pipe blockage. After unscrewing the fuel cap to let the air back in and release the vacuum all was well and we arrived in Essouria in the afternoon.

Essaouria, when the boats come in with Kika in the distance

Essouria is a spectacular harbour. We passed purple island on the way in a source of Lapis luzulae die for the Romans. The fortifications were built by the Phoenicians and the Portuguese . Lying beneath the snow capped Atlas Mountains the harbour is a hive of activity with fishing boats of every description landing huge sharks, swordfish,tuna,conger eels which were covered in ice sold and sent off in lorries to Marrakech and Casablanca.
Boatbuilding is all done by eye ,not from plans and the slipways produce sturdy wooden trawlers with 400horse power engines that can go for many days. Even the open boats stay out 4-5 days.

Shark for tea tonight!

The town was originally a slave port. Ships and Arab caravans would bring black Africans to the local market(now a restaurant area) where they were sold to English ships and taken down to the docks casting a last look at their homeland. The official history of the town on the notice board seems to skate over this very significant part of its history.
building boats by eye and hand using an adze

Eucalyptus ribs on a new trawler

One third of the towns population used to be Jewish, and with their disappearance in the 50s and 60s to Israel due to the politics, the town lost a lot of its business mojo. Jimmy Hendricks local hippy colony didn't quite fill the space. A lot of families come back to visit the graves. Relationships are good and the exiled Jewish community provide a lot of development support to the local community encouraged by the young King Mohammed who is highly respected

Spent two nights here and met up with Barry Everson a retired fisherman from Ipswich who had led a very colourful life and settled here. He took us to the wholesalers where craftsmen have made beautiful wooden items of furniture and tableware since Roman times from the local walnut like hardwoods. Barry invited us to a prawn dinner at his place which was absolutely delicious . We had a shower because there were none in the port, and he regaled us with tales of being a mate on a Thames barge running down the East coast which sounded a pretty hairy business especially shooting the bridges on the Thames using the tide with the mast down and almost no steerage.

Garlic prawns and a tall tales from Barry Everson

After a roller coaster ride, Cockney and Berber seal the deal!

After Colin had sent the local traders into despair with his negotiating tactics ( a Berber stallholder even worked out that he was a cockney)  we set off on a two day passage to the canaries and said goodbye to Africa at 1300 hrs on Monday 23 September.  We had good nor nor west winds for one and a half days and made good progress under the parasail helped along by the canary current which runs South at over a knot. The wind generator and is definitely not charging and we think the problem may be the regulator, so plenty to fix when we eventually arrive in Las Palmas. In the meantime the beautiful green volcanic mountains of Graciosa Island are in sight and we should arrive at La Sociedad at 1300 hrs in 4 hours

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lagos to Rabat

After a few days of easy living at Lagos including an overnight trip to a nearby anchorage called Alvor, we have decided its time to leave the land of British tourists and head off for the moorish delights of Morrocco . Before we left we said hello to Dave Gozzard and Charles McConnell who are going to do the ARC in Daves boat Gozzwos a fast 42 ft Benetau √Član , on which we all crewed on a lovely cruise to Cadiz some years ago. Dave and Charles had motored down from St Malo overnight and looked remarkably chirpy at 8am compared with their dissolute living Marina friends. This was just a recce to get the boat ready and they are coming back later to do the passage to Madeira with their better halves. They will have a busy three days getting water makers , reefing systems and the Single side band radio into working order.

Most boats go straight to the Canaries via Madeira , however we have been tempted by the lure of ancient Moroccan Medinas , the footprint of history where the Phoenicians , the Romans, the Portuguese , Spanish and finally the French have all left their mark to say nothing of the great Mosques built by the Sultans when The Caliphate extended half way up Spain.

The passage has involved two nights with a dawn arrival at Rabat to get in at high water. During our first night the wind shifted from west to northerly with rather confused seas  and a bumpy first night . Getting back into a watch system and going to sleep straight away when you are off watch is an art, at which your body gradually acclimatises itself to the constant roll of the boat. The wind died back on the second day which has meant a lot of Motoring, it was a good job we changed the oil and filters in Sines.

As we move South of the Straights of Gibraltar we are picking up half a knot of favourable current running SE down the African coast and at 11pm an 11 knot Zephyr of a westerly wind kicked in placing us on a comfortable beam reach 40miles out from Rabat. The sea is calm Kika is speeding along at over 5 knots with her bow wave creating lovely stars of phosphorescence in the water. The wind is warm which means wearing shorts on night watch. The stars are out with Orion just making an appearance later in the night on in the Southern sky which shows autumn is here and the Plough lies much lower in the North due to our Southerly latitude. We pass the lights of an occasional ship which keeps one awake and being on night passage in a comfortable yacht is hard to complain about.

We arrived in Rabat at 07.30 in the morning. The eastern sun lit up the sandstone walls of Rabats ancient fortress overlooking the harbour.  Because the channel wasn't buoyed a local fishing boat took us in. On the banks numerous people were shopping at the early morning fish market, shouting across the water. "Bienvenue Kika a Rabat" (welcome)

A local fishing boat takes time to guild us into Rabat

The catch is unloaded for immediate sale.

We tied up at the police and customs dock where the Labrador sniffer dog was too old to get down the steps into the cabin. The beaurocracy took about two hours- we had got off lightly!

Boys go through this door. Its not a haircut.

We spent the afternoon looking around Sale home to the infamous pirates "the sallee rovers" whose reach in their heyday extended to Southern Ireland.  They seized hostages, made the women wives, killed any poor men and housed the rich ones in a couple of gloomy dungeons in anticipation of an exchange or ransom. Above the dungeons there was an impressive array of stolen Italian cannons to keep out the French , Spanish , Portuguese or anyone else with ideas. The town itself grew rich on Piracy and the quality of the cedar doors (from the Atlas Mountains), wrought Iron door lockers some with the pirates emblem of a trident, and ornamental stonework in the old Medina showed a town that had seen better times. All over the Medina there were coffee bars where the men could spend all day shooting the breeze, having a smoke , and drinking thick black sugary coffee. We had no problem adapting - who needs pubs!  The female equivalent was the second hand clothing market in the middle of the medina where the ladies exchanged clothes with their neighbours and sat down for a good chat.

In prison waiting for the full treatment

We took the rowing ferry across to Rabat for the princely sum of 2 Dirhams(20p) where James was invited to backwards skull across and made a good fist of it. The fishermen had recognised us as the crew of Kika. Eat on a converted Dhow , the only place in town you could get a beer- but at a price and spent Friday chilling out fixing a few snags and came across Simon and Mike in a Najad who are close pals with Pete Barrar our neighbour from home. Mike is planning a five year trip and reckons we might be rushing things

The ladies gather to swap news and clothes at the local WI


On Saturday we jumped on a train that took us 5 hours inland to Marakesh. We got a taxi to the gate of the old medina and were kindly offered accommodation at our friend Maire's sisters hotel which was brilliant.

We plunged into the old souk where lots of traders were vying to be our new best friend. Negotiations took a long time , but Colin with his honed skills managed to reduce the price of a haircut from 80 to 20 dirhams(£1-40) he insisted on the Morroccan price which caused a lot of laughter in the shop. In fact one of the traders nearly closed his shop when they saw Colin coming back as he said he was bad for business.

Top mosque hires new Imam

The heart of Marakesh is Al Jamail square where thousands of people gather. The smoke from hundreds of cooking fires rises from a tented encampment where you can sit down and have a great meal for about  £5 to the beat of many drums and the swirl of pipes accompanying fire eaters , snake charmers, fortune tellers, boxers and just about anything you can think of.

In the souks you could get away from the tourist bits to quarters where they were selling piles of leather skins to numerous shoemakers and leather luggage men. In the metalwork quarter the blacksmiths were busy making every type of wrought iron imaginable and the live market where you bought your chickens squawking just to ensure they were fresh. 

After two nights it was time to return to Rabat and get ourselves geared up for a night passage to Al Jadida 90 miles away.

East end boy signs up for Moroccan DIY dental care

fish and chips for less than 30p. Colin discusses a potential uk franchise!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Bayona to Lagos

We left Baiona with a westerly wind blowing up to 25 knots and had a fast passage down to Viano da Castelo in Portugal. As we approached our mooring  going up river past some large shipping we were hit by a wall of heat. It had been 35 degrees C today in town, hot even for the Portuguese . As we move south we have lots of new friends in the form of flies and Mosquitos and have deployed the mosquito netting for the first time. Viano da Costela is a friendly town. Various explorers set off from there to discover and finally colonise Brazil  but we just chilled out over a beer and watched Real Madrid beating up Granada on the big screen.
Jon and James, puzzled as to why the gangway slopes the wrong way? Its the French who are holding things up as usual !

In the morning we woke to find our French fellow yachties with their pulpit bent and compressed under a gangway that had lowered onto it as the tide rose. There wasn't much to do except wait for the tide to drop again so we pushed off for Porto . Clive had zoomed down from Baiona that morning under engine and overtook us as we were sunning ourselves at 4.5 knots under the parasail. As we sailed up the river into Porto we were greeted by a fast rib with Judith on board steered by a young man called "NoNo". Judith had probably been saying just that as he turned up the throttle.

Judith and her new friend NoNo

The new marina in Oporto is fantastic. 50% discount for boats on the ARC fresh bread delivered free of charge in the morning and a pleasant cafe which the locals patronise in the balmy evenings. On Wednesday we took the water taxi and then the ancient tram into town. Porto is scenically very dramatic with spectacular bridges and an ancient medieval town built into the rock of the river gorge. The cathedral was full of ornate wooden carvings in Madeira wood multiple alters but surprisingly little room for the congregation. After a splendid lunch in the back streets we proceeded across the suspension bridge for the serious business of the day- visiting the port cellars all located on the south bank of the river.

The crew insisted on tasting the entire range of Cockburn's port

The port trade has strong links with England starting in the 17th century . The war with France meant no decent wine so fortified wine laced with brandy transported very well by ship back to England which made a glass of Port very popular. When Wellington landed in Portugal to help the Portuguese against Napoleon in the peninsular war. British companies got in on the trade so names like Sandiman , and Cockburn with a British interest persist to this day. The grapes come only from the Oporto region and were transported downriver by sailing barge to the port houses where the vintage ports take 20 years to mature in beautifully made oak vats. While making a detailed and knowledgeable analysis of the offerings of at least three different houses ably assisted by the rest of the crew, Colin was alarmed to discover that a vintage port requires drinking within 24-72 hours because it starts to deteriorate under oxidised conditions. Having opened a bottle of Colin's best vintage port a couple of days ago the whole crew has risen magnificently to the challenge of keeping the port fresh and as an otolaryngologist I can confirm the widely held belief that it is also beneficial to the vocal cords.

A tram ride to the town centre, Oporto

After an early start we are beaming along under parasail to complete the 65mile day sail to Figuera da Fos. Because of the dry conditions we can see large fires on the shoreline which reduce visibility but make spectacular sunrise and sunsets. Clive has radioed to say that a pin on his auto helm has shattered so we will look at it this evening. In the meantime he is hand steering.

Kika, content under parasailor

Sephina soon after sunrise

We  made a brief stop at Figuera. James looked at Clive's auto helm . A rather inadequately engineered bolt had sheared between the end of the ram and the rudder assembly. It was not difficult to put in a better one, but it was better it happened here in benign conditions than in an Atlantic storm. Figuera was a lovely town with loads of restaurants and a casino. We were tired, went for a meal +beer , slept well and motored down to Nazaire  in the morning . Fishing at 5 knots is not productive . We will have to think of a cunning change of plan.
The marina at Nazaire had seen better days with a duplication of paperwork between the coastguard and the marina and a general air of neglect after the boom time money had run out. The nearby beach resort town was fun . Portuguese people are much more organised on the beach with areas for beach volleyball, trampolining and a whole line of beach tents. Fishermen salt and dry out fish on big racks and sell the fish to passing holidaymakers who progress as the evening wears on from beach to bar to open air restaurant as dusk falls (and Colin had left his camera on Kika!) . Wine is cheap fish are plentiful and the only problem we have is working out which fish is which in Portuguese .
From Nazaire we spent a long day alternately sailing and motoring the 70 miles to Cascais in the Lisbon estuary. The Portuguese trades are a steady  Northerly blowing at around 10 knots. If the wind speed drops below 10 we motor and above 10 there's a great shout for the parasail which provides a great sunshade in the morning. 
We bypassed Lisbon and its pleasures and continued down to the port of Sines where we passed huge tankers and freighters waiting for a berth. Sines was a great place to chill out and give the engine a service. James with his engineers eye spotted an oil leak where I had failed to connect the engine breather pipe to the air filter, and  the washer on the primary filter was worn leaking diesel. Unfortunately we managed to shear the bleed screw and so we had two trips to the local industrial estate for parts. The blokes who sort you out are the same the world over . Wearing old brown coats and peering over their half glasses they rummage around and find exactly what you need. It's no good going to big flash shops ; you need to find the grey haired  professors bending over their lathes to find the right part for a boat.

Sines Caste, as viewed from our pontoon berth.

Composing the Blog 

Sines has a lovely old town with a castle built by Phillip 11 of Spain to dissuade any of the locals from revolting. It's most famous son was Vasco da Gama who discovered India for Portugal. His statue glowers out over the sea and he looks even more malevolent than Henry the eighth. Clearly not a man to be crossed if anyone told him you couldn't make it to India. 
Eating out with the locals was cheap and good. At the end of the evening it was lovely to see the restauranteur his kitchen and front of house staff all sitting down to a well earned meal of wine and lobster. 
Cive and Judith took off early this morning to get to the bright lights of Lagos however Kika is off to a quiet anchorage at Araffina which will hopefully be calm in the light winds.

James, Britain's great hope for the Rio Olympics

 We have been escorted for over an hour by a family of eight dolphins all performing aquabatics at the bow. They are rather difficult to photograph.

Our foredeck pals  

After a magic swim at the peaceful anchorage at Araffina we pushed on round Cape St Vincent to Lagos . Off the cape the wind got up and for the first time we had a significant foul tide of 2 knots which meant a late arrival to lazy Lagos where everyone speaks English and everything is available including a good Internet connection. Met an American single hander in his Bristol pilot cutter who told me his technique for night watches was to drink plenty and need to get up for a pee to check everything. The key is working with an ageing prostate rather than fighting it!