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!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I should book an appointment with this Moroccan 'dentist'....!