Sailing with sheep and getting ready for the ARC

We had an interesting time in Rabat Morocco. I was the sickest I have been in years. I learnt that eating food from street stalls and salad washed with local water is a definite no go in Morocco. Adam, my first mate, ended his travels and Ben ended his holiday, and my Father joined Javier and I. Once I was better, we planned to sail to Las Palmas de Gran Caneria but as we sailed out of Rabat we passed a floating sheep. I should have known that this was going to be a bad omen for the trip but we pressed on. After 1 day of motoring, boom we were hit by a low pressure system from Hurricane Sandy. 35kts on the nose for 2 days and all hell broke loose.

Rabat Morocco was an amazing place to sail into. The port entry is a small sandbar with only 3 metres of water and the only way you can enter the port is with the pilot boat to ensure you take the deepest passage possible. We arrived outside the port at 8am and there was no reply from the pilot so we hung around for a few hour. Surely enough a pilot finally appeared and guided us safely through the entrance. As we entered Morocco we could hear praying from every direction. It was an interesting thing to hear as you enter a port. We then pulled up at the dock and waited 2hrs for Customs; I guess they were at prayers. They then came aboard, collected our papers and sent a dog to check for drugs. The dog looked like snoopy and more like someone’s pet than a drug enforcement dog. Snoopy spent a lot of time round the fridge, I suspect he was hungry and this was proved true when we left the port but I’ll talk about that later.

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, and has amazing market places where you can buy just about anything from turtles and iguanas to fake iphones, clothes, and toilets. The streets are absolutely packed with people and most people are very friendly wanting you to try their street food which I thought hey if they can eat it and not get sick why can’t I? Boy was I wrong, the next day I had a fever over 41 degrees and couldn’t move. This lasted for 3 days, then started to die off.  On the 5th day with some antibiotics I was ready to set sail for Las Palmas de Gran Caneria.

Morocco had just had their annual sheep sacrifice called Eid al-Adha which involved many sheep being sacrificed on the street, then cut up and given to the nation to eat. We left Rabat the day after this festival. Once again we waited hours for Customs and good old snoopy the customs dog. I had just cooked what I thought was a nice omelette with fresh produce. As snoopy boarded the boat I was told he had just gone to the toilet on the last boat he was on. I was happy that at least he wasn’t going to soil my boat. Snoopy then snooped around for a few minutes and then went straight for the omelette before the customs official or I could remove the plate. Half the omelette was in snoopy’s belly and the rest all over the floor. The customs official shrugged and that was the end of Snoopys snooping. Another omelette was made and quickly consumed by us before we left port.

The pilot boat escorted us out of the port and it appears that one of the sheep from Eid al-Adha had got away and had an untimely death on the Atlantic. As we left Rabat I had to pull hard to starboard to avoid hitting this floating sheep and to ensure the fishing line didn’t snag it. I should have known that was going to be a bad omen for the trip but as I don’t believe in that sort of thing I thought nothing of it. After 1 day of motoring we were hit by 35kts on the nose. We put all three reefs in the sail and changed to the storm jib. The storm jib then smashed the stopper off the end of the self-tacker track. In 35kts in the dark the self tacker blocks were smashing around in the wind. Javier and I had to quickly secure the blocks. We were pretty stuck with no where to pull into to so we setup a jury rig by tying the block with a line shorter than the self tacker track to get us under way. We had to run the engine and push up wind for the next few days. These days were probably up there as the worst passage to date. We smashed into big swells as we constantly changed direction to try and avoid putting too much pressure on the boat and rig as we dropped off waves. Aside from the self tacker the boat fared very well.

Agadir was an interesting harbour. I’m not sure how it was designed but there was a constant surge in the marina, a few people fell off the dock as they walked around. Not only did it constantly surge the water was full of dirt, rubbish, dead fish and had a layer of muck all over it. Our sinks clogged up the first day then the toilets and every other skin fitting clogged up. We had to be very careful to check the engine cooling as we left the port. Agadir Marina is not a place I would recommend going. Nor is their night life to be recommended. Javier and I went to a few night clubs but they were full of men and beers were 6 euros.

We meet a very nice Aussie couple in Agadir, Neil and Kerry, they had a catamaran from South Africa. She is a beautiful boat and flies downwind. They had sailed from South Africa to the Caribbean and back to the Med. After Agadir they were going to sail back to the Caribbean. We had a nice dinner with them and had birthday drinks for Neil’s Birthday.

As we left Agadir we had a nice breeze from the North which was perfect to go south. Sadly this breeze quickly died and we motored for the next day with a bit of sailing in between. We arrived at Lanzarote early in the morning and figured if we continue to sail this next 96 miles to Gran Caneria we will arrive at night. Instead we anchored in a beautiful bay and swam ashore. I found a boat hook in about 5 metres of water so dived down and got that then continued to the shore. This beach was a nudist beach but not clad with beautiful Europeans instead it had a more aged group of holiday goers, mostly largely overweight and probably in their 70’s. It wasn’t the nicest site so we just went for a quick jog for some exercise then swam back to the boat and ate some of the big fish we had just caught.

We left Lanzarote at 6pm and had one of the best sails of the trip, with 15-20kts at 90-120 degrees true and a swell behind us. We flew to Gran Caneria, our planned 14hr passage took less than 12hrs, with an average speed of 8kts and surfing speeds of up 12kts – it was awesome. Javier and I hand steered most of our shifts and it was an amazing feeling surfing down waves.

As we arrived way ahead of schedule we entered the port at night which was what were trying to avoid but with AIS it really isn’t an issue. We docked at the reception dock and could see hundreds of ARC boats already. We were all pretty excited seeing little X-yachts to 82ft Oysters and massive catamarans. Once we checked in we were taken to our berth and looked around the marina. The vibe here is amazing, there are people looking to cross the Atlantic everywhere and everyone is excited about the ARC. With 250 boats competing this year it’s going to be an amazing event. Thanks to Aussiemite which we will be eating across the Atlantic this event has become a reality for me and my crew. Javier has officially become the chef and he makes amazing Spanish meals using Aussiemite as the stock. The ARC has events and drinks on every night plus there are boats on the Marina having bbq’s and parties all the time. Last night Dad and I went to a bbq on a swan.

I have met some very nice local girls here, Mariahm and Patricia. Mariahm has been showing us around the island and they both helped us yesterday with some things around the boat. Thanks guys it is really great to have your help and for showing us around the island. We are planning to go for a sail and hopefully a downwind wakeboard early next week.

Aside from all of that it is all systems go here, something new is purchased almost every day, my bank balance is going down but Charm Offensive is adhering to some very stringent safety regulations and new parts are being added every day. Today we will add a bobstay and finish setting up the rest of the Safety gear.



From Good bye Spain, hello Morocco, the Atlantic and Canary Islands. Posted by Nick Black on 11/11/2012 (69 items)

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