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Time Bandit
Morocco
12/09/2014, Motorway Services en Route Tangier

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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 caf├ęs 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.

Quick Quiz!
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.




Collisions
08/09/2014, By the pool, Fes, Morocco

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!

Home Run
30/08/2014, Largs Sailing Club

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.

Crash Gybe!
18/08/2014, Ocean Village, Gibraltar

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.


Back to Cartagena
16/08/2014, Cartagena

From Ibiza and our nightmare rock and roll night of no sleep we upped anchor at 07:00 and headed south.

Once again we had a great breeze and enjoyed a sun drenched 8+ knot reach all day and night landing in Cartagena at 06:10........just as the nightclub on the harbour wall where we tied up was closing!

Cartagena is a smart town. A good mix of the old and new and seemed nice to be back in civilisation, away from pure tourist ville.

We met some NBF's (new best friends) from the US on Quintessa a Hylas 49, who live near where we used to. A jolly pleasant evening swapping yarns and, a bit spookily, a recommendation for a Raymarine engineer if we needed anything done.

The next stop is either Almerimar or Gibraltar. We will see how the wind shapes up.

South 'Till the Boat Stops Rolling
14/08/2014

We departed Majorca this morning, 09:00 Magaluf to be exact.

A favourable forecast for the next few days gives us a fighting chance of getting to Almerimar under sail.

It's all going well so far. We left in 7-8 knots and although heading more for Africa than Ibiza. The forecast said the wind would veer to the SW and later, the NW

---------- later that day.....

Great news is the forecast is coming true. 15:00 and the wind has shifted, we're bang on course and skelping along at 8.5 - 9.0 knots ...... in blazing sunshine. Doesn't get much better than this.

We will make Ibiza about 7pm and anchor for the night. The wine is due to go SW overnight. As that's the direction we're heading I think we'll anchor, sleep through that and head on again tomorrow.

The new main looks great and with the old Chinese genoa we have a few more square metres and the extra power is noticeable. A good 8-9 knots is order of the day off the wind in anything over 15kn.

Nearly Ready to Go
12/08/2014, On board, heading south

Well, finally, nearly six weeks late, our new main arrived. This signalled the beginning of the end of our weeks stuck in this Hell hole, Port de Pollenca. The end of swimming around the boat, balmy nights in the Pool Bar with Eric and our pal Peter and meals out with the cruising bods we've met.

Anyway, the new sail was duly fitted. Battens cut to size; well actually cut 25mm too short necessitating a return trip with a new stock to cut and fit correctly.

A quick test sail around the bay, an exchange of cash and we were free to leave. Free to "press on". Something we've been pretty poor at this year.

So, after a final dinner with 15 other cruisers in the bay we levered our anchor out the mud and headed out to circumnavigate Majorca and head south and ultimately Las Palmas for the ARC start in November.

Our new sail was built with a large roach. Not quite a "fat head" but did seem to give us more power. It's also ten shades whiter than the old one so we're a bit blinded.

A good upwind bash in 15 knots got us up to the north end of the island where we anchored for the night. It was now pretty gusty with 25 knots coming down off the hill.

Out of habit we usually set a trip line. However, one of the power boat muppets in PP ran over it and hopefully now it is quietly wearing out his stern gland.

We therefore aimed for a sandy patch and dropped the Spade as fast as we could. Unfortunately, patch turned out to be a sand covered patch of rock which, good news hooked the anchor and held us solid all night. Bad news; 30 minutes of cursing while motoring around the anchor finally pulling it out backwards.

Tonight we will be in a relatively sheltered lagoon, Porto Colom but paying for he privilege as the council have laid mandatory mooring buoys. If we can find a place to anchor we will as paying just encourages more anchoring bays to be buoyed.

............ it turned out Porto Colom was mobbed and open to the large swell so we ended up overnighting in Port Jolly then headed over to Magaluf (where even the babies have tattoos) to get a new leech line fitted.

The wind moves east tomorrow so the plan is to make a 150 mile dash for the mainland, perhaps Cartagena or further south. We will see where the wind takes us.

Port de Pollenca
07/08/2014, Pool Bar

Tonight, a Spanish boat arrived, came up to half a boat length or less behind us which was about 5 boat lengths ahead of the next boat and dropped his hook.

A lovely bit of parking IF there wasn't two square miles of empty bay
around us

These muppets make you scream. Well actually, we find taking photographs works really well. Before long he upped and offed..... 30 metres to the left. Aaaaarrrggh

Next night. Same thing but closer in 50 foot cat. Too dark for photos so we put the torch on them, woke them and suggested they were too close. Gallic shrug of shoulders and the idjit goes back to bed.

It's like driving into an empty supermarket car park. Somehow you end up parking between the only two other cars.

Highlight of the day was finally fixing our solar / wind generation problem. This saga has gone on for a long time so pleased we now have full power and don't hVe to top up batteries with the engine.

It's very hot here now with 32+ C being the norm. Anne is struggling but hopefully we will get acclimatised before we start moving further south.

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