September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa

By Tom Morkin

It’s 0900 and I’m nestled under a comforter as it’s only 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the sky looks like it belongs more in western Washington than in North Africa. It’s raining common varieties of house pets and blowing 30 knots out of the northeast. It would all be grounds for complaint except that it gives Liz and me a chance to do something that gives us a strangely satisfying pleasure especially when we’re only a couple hundred miles from the Sahara desert. We’re filling our almost empty water tank with newly minted, certainly fresh, clean and rather cool rain water recently manufactured over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Talk about a gift from the heavens. Almost absolutely pure and definitely absolutely free, catching it is a nice way to start the day.
Many North Americans and especially Canadians take the wet stuff for granted as we certainly did in our early cruising days until we had to pay for it, schlep it, purify it, or all of the above. Water became a very important consideration. I’ve never had the inclination to install a water maker, so we directed our attention to catching the stuff rather than making it. Over the years we fashioned all kinds of rain-catchment systems from a bucket hung from the base of the gooseneck while sailing, to funnels tied into awnings and weighted, later refined to plastic through-hull fittings inserted into the awning and a hose securely attached to the through-hull fitting’s barbed end.

A hose is attached to the deck scupper which leads to jugs or directly to the water tank.

But without question, our present system is the best yet. We use virtually the entire deck surface of the boat as a rain-catchment area. Here’s how it works. Our boat’s deck is drained by six scuppers. We dam all but two of them and the hoses from those two are removed and replaced by hoses that can be led into buckets or directly into the boat’s water tank.

The normal protocol is to clean the deck thoroughly before the anticipated rain, even if that involves using salt water. Usually, the first 40 gallons are collected in pails and jugs for laundry, showering and dishwashing, as it could be a little salty and contain some sediment. After 40 gallons has been collected the water is clean enough for drinking and directed into the water tank.

The hoses from two deck scuppers lead directly into Feel Free’s water tank.

In the two weeks since we’ve been in Marina Monastir we’ve caught rain twice for a total of over 100 gallons. This has saved us the $3 US a day the marina charges for water. That’s close to $100 a month and by the way, the four solar panels on our stern allow us to be self sufficient for electricity, which frees us of another $3 US a day charged for power. In this particular marina, power and water charges boost the monthly marina charge by more than 60 percent; in our case, from $266 to $446.

Our first week in Monastir was spent cruising the town of 75,000, by bicycle and foot. The need to find an internet café and buy groceries or widgets for the boat provide the excuse for long trips around this new and very foreign place. Walking past the 1,200-year-old fortress, through the walled medina, surrounded by the loud and colorful, seemingly chaotic aisles of the town market make a day of errands into a day of sensory adventure.

It’s easy to get a head in Tunisia.

Food shopping, normally not one of my favorite activities, has become a joy. Fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish are abundant, excellent in quality, and cheap. In addition to the central market, twice a week vendors set up their wares in the outskirts of town. Five-ton trucks overflowing with artichokes, carrots, fennel, potatoes, radishes, and countless unrecognizable foods attest to the rich agricultural nature of Tunisia.

The twice-weekly market on the outskirts of Monastir provides an abundance of produce and wares. Fennel (shown here) has become one of our favorite vegetables

During that first week in Monastir we were “treated” by a visit of the Tunisian President Ben Ali. Ben Ali who has been President since 1987 is a relative newbie compared to his predecessor who served from 1956, when Tunisia gained independence from France, until 1987. Five days before the visit, streets normally strewn with litter were cleaned, drab paint-chipped buildings got new coats of paint, bright and crisp Tunisian flags and bunting sprung up like spring flowers, and police and military personnel appeared at every street corner and roundabout. Clearly, these folks take the President’s security very seriously.

In fact, security is something not taken for granted here. With Libya to the south and east and Algeria to the west, Tunisia doesn’t have a history of peaceful borders. Libya has long tried to claim Tunisian territory and Algeria continues to try to destabilize the political environment of what it considers a liberal pro western regime. The way it does that is by taking a page out of the Egyptian fundamentalist group and targeting their tourists. In view of this reality, the increased police and military presence is rather comforting.

For President Ben Ali’s visit, his picture was pasted everywhere, streets were cleaned, and flags and streamers fluttered in every street.

In view of this highly visible police and military presence, Presidential visits notwithstanding, I was shocked out of my wits the other day when in broad daylight near the ribat (fort), a major tourist attraction, I witnessed four men leap out of an old car and proceed to violently assault two pedestrians with sticks. This display of violence took place in full view of scores of people, Tunisians and tourists alike, but strangely, no police. A day later at the market, Liz witnessed a stall vendor pummeling a young man even while the young man vomited profusely. Was this a case of petty thievery being dealt with by Tunisian street justice? We choose to believe these were freak occurrences and in fact, travel in Tunisia is safe.

The arrival from Abu Dhabi of our niece Kelly marked the beginning of some serious sight seeing. Kelly, a small-town Canadian girl, had grown up and become a high school teacher when I wasn’t looking. Although we’d spent many Christmases together over her 27 years, our visits were fleeting at best, so Liz and I were delighted that she would stay with us for five days of her spring break.
 

We chatted with Kelly about travel for hours, poring over atlases and charts.

What a treat it was to travel with someone who is so easily awestruck by things foreign, different, and unusual. Her enthusiasm and excitement were infectious. Here was a small-town girl who was out to see the big world. In the course of one school year, Kelly will have visited Jordan, Oman, Tunisia, Dubai, England, the Netherlands, Canada, and a few countries in Eastern Europe. Not bad for a young woman who didn’t get out of North America until she was 25.

Her first morning aboard Feel Free, we were treated to an intense low of 994 mb that zeroed in on Monastir with the accuracy of a cruise missile. The squalls of 40-50 knots that persisted through much of the day gave us the strongest winds we’d experienced this past winter in the Med. Black skies, driving rain, rolling boat, halyards clanging against masts, a nearby boat with an improperly furled jib unfurled itself and died a very loud and violent end as the wind pummeled it to death, but not before four men put themselves at risk by trying to save the sail.

The remaining days were good weather wise and were spent on day trips. For me, Kairouan and El Jem were the highlights. Kairouan, the oldest Arabic city in Tunisia, is also its holiest; in fact, it is the 4th holiest place in the Islamic world after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Word on the street is that if you can’t make the pilgrimage to Mecca, seven trips to Kairouan equals one to Mecca, so you can imagine what a busy place it is during the Haj.

Kelly got to experience some pretty nasty weather during her visit aboard Feel Free. Plus, our sails were being re-stitched so we couldn’t take her out on the water. So Kelly, how do you like boat life so far? As it turned out, she liked it just fine.

We were extraordinarily lucky to be in town when the famous once-a-week Kairouan carpet auction was in session. In the long alley of the Medina the colorfully dressed women who were the weavers of the carpets lined one side of the alley while the carpet buyers (mostly retailers) lined the other side. Highly energized and highly vocal independent auctioneers raced up and down the alley carrying the beautiful, heavy carpets from one prospective buyer to another. We were allowed to watch, but we pinned ourselves to the walls, out of the way of the auctioneers. God help any tourist who got in the way of the auctioneers. To the untrained observer, the scene was pandemonium. We felt privileged to be three flies on the wall while watching such a bizarre spectacle that has replayed basically unchanged in the same location since 700 AD.

These three ladies are carpet weavers in Kairouan.

El Jem, a nondescript town, has the distinction of having the single most impressive Roman monument in Africa. It is an amphitheater like the Coliseum in Rome, marginally smaller (capacity for 30,000 spectators in the old days) but much better preserved. We could actually walk under the floor of the center of the arena to see where gladiators and the animals they fought were contained. Sophisticated cages and elevators using pulleys were to safely bring the animals to ground level.  As we walked through the dark tunnels we could easily imagine the sheer terror of the gladiators and their victims as they awaited their turn to perform and or die. 
After four days of sightseeing it was Kelly’s time to head back to Abu Dhabi and Liz and I to recuperate for a few days before heading out to explore further south toward the desert.

 

 

The amphitheater in El Jem is a little smaller than the Coliseum in Rome but in much better condition.
Extra pictures