We finally gave up waiting on a favourable wind and decided just to head out and down for Morocco and the Canaries.
The Gibraltar Straits have quite complex current and tidal flows and so after many hours passage planning we left Gib at 5am in the dark to catch the first of the 6 streams.
Whether it was an overly strong current flowing into the Med or we simply got it wrong I don't go but instead of whooshing out on the tide having cleverly jumped the streams we butted the current for hours finally breaking out into the Atlantic and 20 knots and largish seas.
We beat into that for an hour before thinking it would be smarter to overnight in Tangier. Now, having just been in Tangier the week before we should have known better.
There's no marina so we were squeezed in behind a giant car ferry and he pilot boat in amongst the filth of the docks and wash from passing fishing boats. Not bad for €25! We should have waited anger 24 hours but we couldn't get out of there fast enough. Consequently we had a long beat down the coast for 18 hours dodging fishing boats and long semi lit nets finally landing in Rabat marina about 3pm the next day.
The next brilliant idea was to so a DIY trip to the High Atlas Mountains. Teamed up with our NBF's Dave and Linda we booked a Riad in Marrakech and headed for the rail station. Having coffee waiting on he train a text came in from our New Zealand buddies who were already in Marrakech and who had stumbled into and organised a round trip of the Atlas, the desert and back, so we joined them on a four day thrash round the backwoods of Morocco.
Sat here in the marina bar looking out to Rabat's Hassan Tower over the top of the king's pontoon where Mohammed VI keeps his fleet of stink boats it's hard to imagine the absolute poverty two and two hundred miles away.
We are woken in the morning at about 05:30 as the mosques call the faithful to prayer....or at least the faithful early risers.
The mountains are quite impressive and the Berber villages in the oasis all quite spectacular.
The lowlight of the tour, which should have been the highlight was our camel trip into the desert was when Anne fell off her camel after the one behind bit the bum of the one in front etc....
It was quite a fall and she was in a great deal of pain, virtually unable to move all in the pitch black in the middle of the sand dunes. After a painful night during which the Tourag guide did some massage and "accusuck".... A process where a burning piece of paper is put in a small glass then stuck to the skin. As e flame extinguishes it sooks up all the air and create suction pressure on the painful area. Seemed to help!
Anyway, 6am a quad bike arrived and whisked her back to the main camp. (Close your eyes and hold on!) and we got back on the bus to finish the tour.
Thankfully it looks as if she is getting over it so this afternoon or tomorrow morning we will head for the Canaries and see what adventures await there. (Why did I just think I was tempting fate?).
We have now been stuck in Gibraltar for over a week waiting on some wind to take us south to the Canaries. Northerlies and flat calms have been the norm and look like being so for another week.
He only good news is I got some varnishing done and so have some shiny woodwork.
As the southerlies have gone we will bite the bullet and head off into the calms on Tuesday crossing the Straits multi direction tides, currents and fog. Right now it looks like a long motor but fingers crossed some breeze will fill in.
More next week.
In what is now just over three years of cruising, albeit with reasonable amounts of visits home, we've never thought of ourselves as "tourists".
Instead, we loftily perceive ourselves as occupying this exclusive space between "tourists" and locals.
When tour buses and cruise ships disgorge their hordes of bewildered looking customers we look on with pity as they shuffle off in their long shorts and hot weather cardigans desperately trying to keep their guide's raised umbrella in view as it disappears into the crowds.
And so, this week, on our coach tour of Morocco we find ourselves seriously immersed in the world of the "tourist".
One of the first things to strike us is how in "the cruising life" even after just one meeting with a fellow cruiser, the next day or even later in the week you still recognise them sitting in cafés or approaching down the dinghy dock.
In the "tourists" world, no such recognition exists. Even after three or four days on the road, in hotels and visiting cheesy tourist sites we still don't recognise our fellow tourists.
After pondering this for a while, wondering if it was just another sign our faculties slowly sailing over the horizon, it was with something of an embarrassed shock we realised it's because "tourists" change their clothes EVERY day!
To be honest, perhaps we're the Ludites. A couple of Australians we've hooked up with travel in Indonesia every second year and Europe every eighth year. In a short airline whoosh they're in a new land and a new culture. At our speed it will take decades to cover the same ground.
So, tourists or travellers?
I suspect they are only differentiated by the level of discomfort.
What is the Marrakech Express?
A) the fast train from Casablanca?
B) a hit song from the '70's?
C) the 100 metre dash from the bus to the nearest loo?
Marrakech was, to a very small degree like Norway in that all the buildings are painted ochre red. The Moroccans give all their cities a colour Marrakech red, Fes, the Blue city, Rabat Green.
Apparently this is because of the primary colours used on the buildings and mosaics. Personally I think it's just in case a tourist misses their bus all their guide has to do is ask what colour city they're in so they know where they left them.
The Souks just go on and on, stretching deeper in the depths of the city. Stall after stall selling endless amounts of metal work, leather goods and clothes every vendor wanting to sell you something.
Our biggest problem was Anne. Time after time, passing a stall she would go, "ohh. Look at that" meanwhile pointing at the stuff on display. This is then grasped as a clear "buying signal" and the vendors pounce and no amount of "no thanks" gets rid of them. Only keeping moving to distance them from their stall works and even then they will tail you for a long way.
We passed one stall with a sign, "Goats Head Soup". There's a Rolling Stones album with this name and I thought I could get a cheap CD. Unfortunately it actually turned out to be goats head soup. Mmmmm. Tasty.
This whole tour has been a
collision of cultures. Their music, the djellaba vs Levi's, flip flops vs trainers, ancient gated cities accommodating crumbling housing to gated communities accommodating fantastic, architect designed mansions. Brand name shops to Souks. Donkey carts side by side with Range Rovers
Miles and miles of open plain with one solitary man or boy with his herd. People hauling water from the well. Miles of arid desert to miles of olive groves where water pulled from the many rivers pouring down from the Atlas Mointaims creates a very fertile and productive land. Even at this time of year, early September with 40c in town there's snow on the High Atlas.
Meanwhile, in the evenings on
BBC World and CNN we watch appalled as the Scottish parliament draws us ever closer to
FRREEEEEEDOM whereas it's more likely to result in Free-DOOM. These Muppets who spent half a billion pounds on a new office block for themselves and another half billion on 14 miles of a new tramset to play with in Edinburgh seem to have convinced more than 50% of the population they are fit to lead us forward for generations into a new land of wealth and prosperity.
They and one or two of Scotland's wealthiest men advocating independence....from their mansions and Monaco penthouses seem to be swaying the vote.
Sadly virtually the sole source of funding for this enterprise is from the ever diminishing North Sea oil reserves.
Once that's gone and the English rightly put up two fingers when we ask for help no doubt we can look forward to trading our kilts for berets and haggis for sausage....,.just another sub unit of greater Europe run by Euro Muppets whose idiotic spending and rules is what we should be escaping from.
Personally I blame Mel Gibson and Braveheart.
Last weekend was the Gibraltar Music Festival. bands from across the generations were playing; Supertramp; Spandau Ballet from mine and Rita Ora and The Script from today's along with a bunch of other has beens and wannabes.
Unfortunately they were playing on three different stages and all stages at once. We were where the sounds collided so all we heard was a mush of raucous noise.
However, when we walked up the alley when the main stage was changing over we got Supertramp live and bits of Spandau Ballet.
Anyway, we should have been out of Gib by now....or then. However, fixing the Duogen (again) was a must do and the wind was not quite right.
The plan was, and remains, to use the Nortada, the summer northerly from the Azores High to take us south to Rabat from where we planned to tour Morocco. However, once again the Azores High seems more like an expression of welcome rather than a wind pattern.
Last weekend the forecast was for a week of light to stronger headwinds from the south so, rather than hang in Gibraltar for another week we have cheated and jumped on a Morocco tour and we are currently lying on recliners beside the pool of the 5* albatross hotel in Fes.
It was a fascinating drive here (in the air conditioned tour coach) through he d villages and rolling, extremely fertile rolling hills. From the sea to Fes we drove through farmlands freshly harvested for the livestocks winter feed.
The shepherds' "tended their flocks" (presumably also by night) and seem to spend their days keeping an eye on their animals to stop them mixing with the neighbours flock and/or falling victim to predators, perhaps both human and animal.
Up in these middle Atlas Mountains the Berber tribes are the dominant people managing their farm and animals. Their villages, perched on the hillsides are similar to Spains white villages just they're not white and litter, rubbish,and abandoned vehicles are everywhere.
We arrived in Fes about 9pm into the oasis that was our 5 star hotel. Friends had recommended a night in the Berber village. Having seen a couple, call me soft but I was grateful for the air con, restaurant double bed and bath.
We toured the Fes souk this morning and had the usual carpet, bags, leather and linen pitch. All quite interesting yet mildly tedious! The souk, was real life shopping for the residents in the housing area where water is gathered in bottles and carried back to the house... up a 100 metre slope. The house that seems to cling to the torn down hillside existing in defiance of gravity. Where chickens clucking in their cages probably are not going to have that great an afternoon and cats and their offspring clean up in the dark narrow alley where the butchers are busily chopping up carcasses.
The streets are too narrow for motorised transport so you have to watch out for the laden donkeys transporting the next load of stuff to the stalls. Some looks authentic but I suspect most comes from the giant warehouse in Central Europe that distributes all the tourist crap you see in every town south of Watford.
Just 15 kilometres separates Europe from Africa and it's one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. We crossed the shipping lanes at 35 knots with the catamaran ferry dodging shipping, fishing boats and tourist boats. How we will sneak across at 6 knots I'm not so sure but, wind permitting, that's for next week.
Tomorrow it's on to Marrakech and Casablanca and more collisions of culture, smells and tastes.
The picture below is of the tannery. I sure hope health and safety don't turn up anytime soon!
What a differences day makes!
On 20th August we left Time Bandit safely tucked up in Gibraltar and left 34c Malaga for 10c in Scotland!
Mid flight, risking a short jail term, I discretely and somewhat embarrassingly for Anne, slipped out of my shorts and T-shirt and into jeans and fleece.
We landed about midnight for 10 days of enjoying the change from Euro lager to a good pint of heavy! From men in tight swimming trunks to guys dressed for the weather and grease dripping pies instead of tapas.
It really is a bit of a culture shock, driving home at night on wheels in a steel box through lit streets with wild deer roaming around rather than wet and dark dinghy rides motoring around the anchorage trying to spot your anchor light amongst a hundred others.
Then into a bed that doesn't rock in a bedroom you can actually swing a cat in!
Why do we do it?
Anyway, our time here is at an end and from Monday we will be back aboard preparing to head for Morocco and on the the Canaries.
Watch this space.
Shortly after Bob on Quintessa recommended the Raymarine engineer in Gibraltar we thought we might need this guy.
After waiting for the wind to fill in we shipped out of Cartagena and headed south initially thinking Almerimar as a quick overnighter.
However, just a few miles out of Cartagena we noticed we were heading for Greece rather than south. The violent shaking of the rig and sales was the clue.
For some reason, our Raymarine self steering had packed up. We switched it back on and off we went. "Brilliant" I thought. That was a quick fix. However, 5 minutes later, same deal......and this continued for the next 42 hours.
The first 24 hours was great. A solid 8-10 knots all the way and we might have set a record, 177 miles in 24 hours. Given the steering situation we should have stopped at Almerimar. However, we rocketed past at 9 knots about 3am and a night approach with a 3 metre swell wasn't that motivating. Also, with the recommendation of a wonder technician in Gibraltar, we pressed on.
At some time during the night we gybed. Didn't mean to but the steering gave up and before we knew it we crash gybed. Ironically, the only casualty was the Scott Boomlock. The expensive, gybe prevention bit of kit I bought a few years ago. Completely useless. It hangs there for three years, tripping you up on its lines as you go up the side decks then, the moment you need it to do its job it simply disintegrates.
Compounding our woes, it seemed like someone had tied a long piece of elastic too us in Cartagena. As we got closer to Gibraltar we got slower and slower. Not only was the wind dying but there was a two knot current against us. The pilot books say the Med is 1 metre lower than the Atlantic owing to evaporation.
The result is this flood of water into the med. Most of it under our keel. We slowed to an agonising 2-3 knots and so, after setting our 24 hour fastest record we proceeded to set the slowest.
Eventually we got into Gib, tied up and went looking for Tim, the Raymarine magician.
Good news is we found him, between jobs and within two hours we had a new motor so hopefully fixed and ready to rock and roll.