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


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco

By Liz Tosoni

Cadiz was our penultimate and quickly became our favorite Spanish port. (The Canary Islands will be our last Spanish port of call before we head out across the Atlantic in a couple of months.) No wonder Christopher Columbus made it his jumping off point for two of his four voyages to the New World just over 500 years ago. Come to think of it, we should probably call him the great great great great….grandfather of cruisers, as he kind of started the trend.

Cadiz has a fine, large, natural harbor and being just north of the Strait of Gibraltar, on the Atlantic side, is easily accessible for an easterly or westlerly heading.

Cadiz is considered the oldest city in Europe, diverse and oozing with history, dating back to 1100 B.C., crammed full of elegant architecture, churches, museums, restaurants, and tapas bars. It’s very artsy.

Here’s the castle dedicated to Christopher Columbus. There’s also a bust of his pilot, Juan De La Cosa who, according to the plaque, drew the first map of the Americas.

The people are well dressed, friendly, cultured, the many beaches and sand dunes wide and welcoming, the waters warm, it’s where flamenco originated, there’s a bull ring, there are sherry and brandy bodegas, fiestas galore. Cadiz has it all.

The surf was up while we were in Cadiz and so were Tom’s spirits… just for awhile.

The anchorage just off the “new town” was perfect for shopping or sightseeing forays into the “old town,” about half an hour away by bicycle. It’s ideal for all winds but those from the east, so when it blew an easterly gale (levanter) for a week, we just headed a couple of miles northeast to Puerto Sherry  yes, it’s where the sherry we all know originates – and voila, another perfect anchorage with more gorgeous beaches, bicycle paths, and cobbled tree-lined avenues.

I love this place. We should stay a year, I secretly thought, then Tom’s announcement “The weather looks good for departure on Friday or Saturday Lizzie.” Alas, as much as we both liked it, it was time to move on again.

Rabat, the capital of Morocco, some 155 miles due south of Cadiz was to be our Moroccan landfall.

Google Earth shows a rather spooky looking narrow, shallow river bar entrance at Rabat (four metters or about 12 feet at low tide, or so we were told) so we wanted to arrive on a rising tide with minimal swell.

On entering rivers in Morocco, the North Africa Pilot says: “..keep a lookout astern for unexpected rollers sneaking up from behind. It is an alarming experience to have a succession of two-meter steep-sided rollers hit your stern when the sea is otherwise flat and you are in a confined channel concentrating on transit lights ahead, as happened to me.”

Hmmmm…

Arrival around mid-afternoon for the rising tide posed the question: Do we do the distance in one shot or a double overnighter? The forecast called for 10- to 15-knot westerly winds, so that answered the question: We planned to do it in one shot. We also wanted to avoid any fishing boats that might be working as far off the coast as 15 miles. We’d read that their lights can be confusing, frequently put on at the last minute or not at all, and one cruiser friend described a harrowing tale of his keel and propeller getting caught in a net off that coast some years back. He gave us the advice that if ever you find yourself in such a predicament, never ever cut the net as you could be shot at, as some friends of his had been! We would definitely heed his advice, and stay well clear of the coast until daylight.

Leaving the harbor with us at 0800 was a fast-moving Coast Guard vessel, heading towards Gibraltar. “Wonder what they’re up to,” we said in unison. A little later over the radio, came a “Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan,” from Spanish Coast Guard, regarding a sunken vessel with 70 people on board in the vicinity of Spanish Morocco. “Keep a sharp lookout for many people overboard” was the warning.

Over the next two days we heard two more Pan Pans about that incident and then BBC radio gave some more details: It was a vessel of refugees from Morocco heading to somewhere in the European Union when it sunk. Apparently, seven people were rescued, 11 were found dead, and the rest were unaccounted for. This was a disconcerting, shocking piece of news to hear, knowing this awful tragedy was taking place just a short distance from our course.

As we made our way around the big bulge of the Cadiz peninsula and into the wide Atlantic, benevolent white cotton-ball clouds dotted the blue sky but seas were lumpy and uncomfortable, winds light. Bang bang went the boom, slap slap went the sails, “Argh, this is not a good sign” went the crew. By noon though, the winds picked up from the west for a nice beam reach, seas flattened, and sails filled. They were fickle though, so on and off went the engine, up and down went the sails over the course of the afternoon, but as night fell, the winds filled in again for real and Feel Free enjoyed a divine sail under a star-studded sky, dodging a few brightly lit fishing boats here and there.

Morning arrived with a 360-degree cloudscape encircling Feel Free, so my early morning watch found me cloud gazing, observing cumulus formations as they paraded and flowed one into the other, showing off, creating shapes: a seahorse, a hopping rabbit with long ears, a side view of an old man laughing. There were towering sculptures like swirls of white candy floss, puffing in slow motion, flat undersides tinged grey with the sea’s reflection.

While motoring in calm conditions, a forceful WHACK!came from the port side. Tom, who was resting down below, came shooting up the companionway. “What the h _ _ _?!” The main boom had been pulled over to port as the wind was from the starboard quarter, the main sheet leading from it to a preventer block at the deck level on the port side, and then back to the cockpit. The loud bang came when the sheet suddenly snapped off the block; but luckily as there was little wind, no dangerous jibe resulted.

A quick look at the block revealed that it had blown apart! The 36-year-old block had taken much stress and worked hard over its lifetime but finally gave up the ghost on that calm morning.

“Pop bottles off the starboard bow, Tom!” I called out from the bow about four miles from the entrance to Rabat. Zig-zagging around these little hard-to-see crab-pot markers was our form of excitement for the next hour or so as we made our way to the breakwater at the Bouregreg River entrance leading to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The last thing we wanted to do just a few miles from our destination was to get our propeller fouled by crab-pot line! The owners of those crab pots would feel the same way for sure.

 

 

 

 

Once at the entrance, a call on VHF radio channel 10 brought out these two friendly guys in a RIB to guide us up the river to the Customs dock for clearance into the country, and then to the brand-new Marina Bouregreg. Conditions were very mellow, so easy going we could take in the view of the birdlife, a medieval Kasbah to starboard, and small colorful fish boats to port.

 


  Clearance was quick and efficient including a masked Health Official as well as a policeman in heavy black boots accompanied by a police dog that did a thorough sniffing of the boat bow to stern. “Welcome to Morocco!” (And by the way, no photos were permitted.)

We hadn’t availed ourselves of the amenities of a marina for a very long while so the sight of the splendid new facility was sweet. Formalities complete, we were about to tie up to the end of the first dock we came to as there were many spots available and the slips were just the right size for Feel Free. Perfect. Then came our friendly guys in the RIB calling, “No No No No!” Why not? Answer: It’s the “Pontoon Royale,” for the exclusive use of the King’s boats. Okay, not a problem, on to the plebeian docks where everyone is treated equally –15-foot docks for every size of boat!

What’s wrong with this picture? What happened to my dock? Here is a typical Moroccan style marina – long on hospitality, short on docks. We were delighted to see friends Sarah and GB of the boat Djarrka at the Customs dock the next day. We hadn’t seen them since 2006, in Malaysia, so there was much yacking until all hours that night.

So here we are, happily ensconced in water- and power-heaven while planning our trip to the interior to discover some of Morocco’s mysteries. We’re itching to get going.