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


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa

By Tom Morkin

“I want to go, but I don’t want to go” lamented Sarah of Djarrka, describing her feelings about taking leave of our lovely sanctuary in Sale, Morocco. “I know” said I, “my sentiments exactly”. We’d spent just over one month in Bouregerg Marina, meeting up with old friends we hadn’t seen in two or three years, taking inland trips to the Atlas Mountains to the south and the Rif Mountains to the north, and to some of the imperial cities- Marrakesh and Fez. Rabat, the capital, was right next door so it was easy to regularly explore her labyrinthin alleys and storied sights. But ‘all good things must come to an end’, we both knew. We’ve seen this movie before.

Conditions were not right for leaving the harbor though, not just yet. Seas had been building for several days causing waves to break clear across the narrow entrance, making an exit through the bar untenable. Surfers were taking advantage, riding the waves on both sides of the entrance. Tom bemoaned his broken surfboard left behind in Spain.

Unfortunately, one boat did enter during this period, with damage to boat and injuries to crew, but nothing fatal thankfully. The skipper had visited the harbor on a previous trip, thought he knew it, and didn’t bother to contact the harbor master upon arrival at the entrance. Otherwise he would have found out that the harbor was closed. Once inside, a swell picked up, broached and knocked down the boat and all four crew members went overboard. Three made it back onboard somehow, one made it to shore and walked to safety. Among the damages: stanchions and brackets broken or bent, steering wheel spokes of two wheels bent, bimini ripped off and frame bent, compass ripped out of the binnacle, boat filled with water, jerry jugs on deck knocked over the side, serious scratches to the hull. When we spoke to the crew members, they were licking their wounds, complaining of aches, pains, scratches and bruises but were otherwise healthy and enjoying a mountain of Moroccan cous cous sent over compliments of the thoughtful Marina staff. Many lessons learned there.

Back to Feel Free with a not too bad weather forecast on the horizon: swells down to one to two meters and light winds for several days. Although normally we prefer to leave port with stronger wind, in this case, we were just happy to be able to get through the bar in good conditions. If we were to wait, the seas might build again and then we’d be trapped inside for who knows how long. No thank you. Departure boat chores were ticked off the list, water and diesel tanks full, larder brimming, weather double checked, bills paid and clearance received. Surprisingly, we didn’t get the “sniffer” dog this time as we did on arrival. This we were glad of because the dog can make a bit of a mess.

Next day, at first light, the marina staff led us through the channel and we were away again, looking astern, saying ‘adieu’ to Africa and setting a course for the 470 mile journey to the Canary Islands. Since the Canary Islands are so close to the African coastline, it’s no surprise that refugee boats regularly head there too.

Actually, although we did check out of the country, winds were expected to be light so we decided to stay fairly close to the Moroccan coast in case there was no wind at all. “Il n’ya pas de probleme” (no problem at all) said the policeman during check out procedures, when asked if we could re-enter the country if fuel was needed or winds weren’t favorable. It was a relief to know that we could tuck in somewhere without worrying about being turfed out or worse, due to illegal entry. Sitting in a Moroccan clink was not high on my list of new experiences to look forward to!

The first day was lazy, characterized by clear skies and a light breeze from the southwest. About midday I was absentmindedly standing in the cockpit when suddenly a large cricket, no, a dragonfly, wait a minute, a tiny bird, came fluttering into my face, attempting to pass me and enter the boat.

My startled yelp caused the little hitchhiker to change direction and settle for the aft coach house where it tried to find a comfortable spot among some lines to take a rest.

“No bird, even the feral pigeon, is more closely associated with people than the house sparrow” stated our “World of Birds” book. That had to be our gregarious little visitor, a perching bird, I thought as it nestled into a coil of line, taking no heed of us at all. It must have been exhausted. We were many miles offshore and wondered how in the world it could have gotten so very lost. After only a few minutes though, it had had enough, hopped onto the lifeline, built up its nerve, and took flight, heading back toward the coast. Brave little creature.

“The remainder of the day was uneventful except for one highlight- fish! Not one but two, so it was sashimi for starters, then mixed grill of mahi mahi and bonito for dinner and more for the next day. We had sailed the breadth of the Mediterranean without catching a single fish so the savory, delectable, freshly caught morsels simply melted in our mouths. Smiles all around, we could not have been more pleased to be back in fish catching territory again.

The big surprise of the night came in the form of fog, which stayed with us, off and on throughout the night and well into the next day and the following day. It was a strange and almost eerie feeling to be enveloped by a veil of sea mist, and to observe, only on the radar screen, a large ship passing us within a quarter of a mile. We hadn’t experienced this kind of fog since the west coast of North America some 15 years earlier and were not used to it at all.
Fish nets were also a concern as they weren’t visible until you were practically on top of them, so a sharp lookout was needed. Notice the toque and warm ups- it was cold!

At 0230, I was on watch, motoring in no wind conditions through a glassy sea, when the fog lifted briefly. The night was transformed. A half moon shone like a beacon, sparkling stars sprinkled the sky and, darting toward Feel Free off the port beam, was an astonishing sight - dolphins, but dolphins with a difference. They were totally lit up by bioluminescence! Sadly, they arrived, swam under the boat and were gone in a matter of seconds.

It was a short but sweet dolphin show and reminded me of another night watch, more than ten years ago, in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Mexico. It was a brilliant, full moon, a peaceful night and we were sailing along in calm seas when off in the distance appeared a giant shape, an orb, completely luminous like a flying saucer moving sedately through the water, heading directly for us.

Liz: “Tom, I think you’d better come up here, quick!”

Tom: (Sleeping, slow to respond) “What’s going on?”

Liz: “Hurry up, you’ve really got to see this!”

Up the companionway he shot and the two of us had one of the most memorable sights of our sailing lives. We realized it had to be a whale, moving so slowly he might have been half asleep, but decidedly aiming directly for our boat. Was he as fascinated by us as we were by him? Mesmerized by the sight, we were frozen in the cockpit, just staring, but at the same time almost panic stricken that Feel Free might be overturned, capsized by the grand behemoth, and/or that the whale would be injured by the encounter, a bloody mess staining the azure sea. Just as with the glittering dolphins though, our mammoth friend was gone as quickly as he arrived, deftly sounding under our keel with not so much as a ripple.

This passage to the Canary Islands was one we’d been looking forward to immensely. Not only does this little stretch of ocean mark a big step in Feel Free’s slow but steady circling of the globe, but many friends had reported dream sailing conditions and we’d been hoping for the same. Alas, it was not meant to be. Winds were ephemeral, fickle and downright annoying! During the four days it took to cover the 470 miles, we burned more fuel than we had since leaving the Red Sea two years earlier. In fact, worry about running out of diesel was a real issue. A one to two knot contrary current for a long spell added to the frustration. Then, the main clew shackle parted with a loud bang; it could have been a disaster but luckily wasn’t in the no wind conditions. After the moon set, nights were ink black. There was rain. Up and down, up and down went the winds. “It’s like being in the doldrums” grumbled Tom.

But, skyscapes were sensational and seas comfortable, though large and seeming to breathe, rising and falling like the chest of a giant.

At dawn on day four, land was sighted. Graciosa and Lanzarote Islands appeared on the horizon under pastel puffer clouds. I have to mention that just as we were dropping the hook, a nice wind picked up from the north and lasted for a week.

For me, a new landfall is always a thrill and this one was no exception. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of them. Despite the lack of wind, we’d made it to the Canary Islands with fuel to spare, everything working and only a couple of minor mishaps.
Friends were there to greet us in a picturesque anchorage. We were five degrees of latitude further south so the water was warm for swimming. There were hills to explore and sights to see, a new culture, new foods. What more could a pair of cruisers ask for?