Sunday, 23 September 2018

INTO THE KASBAH. MOROCCO. . 23rd September 2018

The Cadiz skyline melted into the distance as we motored south from this amazing city. The day was clear and warm with very little wind but it was only 58 easy miles to Tangier, Morocco. 

Evenings were social with Dark Tarn, Phil and Lynne, Sequoia, Barbara and Craig. We filled several nights with fun and tall stories on one another boats.

What a treat we were in for. Very friendly locals directed us to the marina which was so new it didn't show on our charts. It's only been open 3 months. It's a beautiful spacious marina mainly because no one was there save a few small sports boats and 7 other yachts. Three of whom were OCC members. There are over 200 berths. The moorings are med style though, so we were very grateful after our exceedingly friendly and efficient check-in to be given a hammerhead, alongside, berth. Taipan doesn't like going backwards. 

The location is great, with only a short walk to Carrefour and the medina, which was our immediate destination. The waterfront on the marina is new and modern with several nice restaurants on the upper deck. The public is not permitted in the dock area and there are 24hour guards so we felt very safe.

Funky stretched Limo.

Winding lanes strewn with every artefact and smelling sweetly of exotic herbs and spices enticed us deeper and deeper into their maze of small stores. Courted by carpet sellers at every turn and engaging in surprisingly good English conversations with the locals was enchanting. This is our kind of tourist destination! We ate local food at small stalls where the locals eat. (Always safer than the tourist haunts.) Couldn’t decide on a carpet but could not resist the ceramic bowls.  Managed to get away with just those and a few postcards.

Assilah is a small city on the coast about 1 hour south of Tanger and as it was a recommended place to visit.  We elected to get a taxi there and back. The price was reasonable and the trip very worthwhile. It's a charming enclosed town all white with blue trim, very clean and lots of interesting twisting lanes and stalls. 

Our main purpose for visiting Tanger was to renew the  EU VAT status of Taipan. By leaving the EU for a short while you are permitted re-entry for another 18 months. We had a tentative booking at Almerimar on the southern Spanish coast, about 170nm east from Gibraltar. The Schengen clock was stopped while we were in Morocco but restarted when we left.

Departure was a simple and free process and after 4 days we headed to La Linea, Spain right under the great big British rock that is Gibraltar. It's just a short walk across the airstrip from Spain to the UK territory. Checking back into Spain was not so simple. David made 5 trips to the border officials to get stamped in but in the end, we got stamped out!! Really??? It was very frustrating. Back in the anchorage, we waited for the weather to be convivial for a dash to Almerimar. It didn’t happen and the winds were not due to abate any time soon. 

There was suddenly a perfect opportunity to head to the Canaries. With plenty of provisions aboard, full of cheap tax-free diesel from Gibraltar, the first leg of the journey was to Rabat just 79nm away. 

Entering Rabat past this spectacular fort.
This was accomplished in a day sail in pleasant conditions. off the wind, once again. The entrance to Rabat has a bad reputation and can be untenable entirely, should the swell build. Its a bar crossing between 2 large rock groins. The swell was around 1.2m when we arrived and after stowing the sails we called channel 10 and were duly escorted into the entrance by a small pilot boat from the Bouregreg marina. A big dredge is working the entrance and even at low tide we had 4.5m of water. 

There’s a very imposing fort at the entrance of the river and we had been forewarned to have the camera ready. It was just spectacular. Barbary pirates used this as one of their harbours in the 7th to 12 century. The fortress was built in the 11th century and used as a launching point for attacks on Iberia. Rabat is the capital of Morocco, with a population of 1.2 million. It is predominantly moderate Islamic. 

The Kasbar
We were escorted to a very accessible visitors pontoon on the left side of the river and promptly boarded by officials with a translator. Effortless entrance. They only wanted to know if we had a drone! Probably because the Kings principal palace is in Rabat. Off to our hammerhead once again in a modern 250 berth marina.

The trams are state of the art and depart from a station just 100m walk from the marina. This system takes you all over town including the big Medina for a mere 60c per ride. The medina is BIG. Trains from Rabat will take you further afield. We were not unduly hassled as there are not a huge number of tourists here. No cruise ships

It was necessary to purchase at least one Berber carpet and this was a fairly exhaustive process. Pretty heavy selling going on and serious bargaining. We procured 2 rugs in the end. One runner for Taipan and one for home. And I love them both. It was so hard to choose.

All in a days work at the Medina.

Our stop was necessarily brief with the Canaries becoming and Paddy with a flight to catch. Said our farewells and checked out with officials to sail the 460nm to Marina Lanzarote, on the northern island of the Canaries. The passaged was rolly and we were pleased to arrive after a 3-day voyage. We managed to sail for about half the trip as there was quite a lot of light wind early in the passage. 

So here we are in the Canaries. It's warm and dry and looks like fun. Stay tuned for the next adventure.

Taipan Departing Rabat. Thanks, Barbara Johnson for the photo.

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