03 September 2018 | Porto Santo
23 August 2018 | Vila do Porto
18 September 2018
We had many recommendations to visit this small fishing port on the Atlantic coast – a 3 hours coach trip from Marrakech did the trick and we were not disappointed.
The harbour is a fascinating hive of activity, the ramparts provide great views, the medina is hassle-free and we had a superb lunch at Restaurant du Coeur with crab, sea bass and monkfish – recommended. The beach is long and wide, attracting kite- and wind-surfers.
There is a tranquillity to the place and warmth from the people that restored our sense that Moroccans are charming and very welcoming.
Our upcoming trip to the south will provide more opportunities to check all this out.
A Tale of Two Cities … or two Moroccos
18 September 2018
The train to Marrakech was comfortable and we were met by a driver from our Riad Al Badia. Our welcome by Laurent, the manager, was outstanding and he took time to brief us on the culture, places and what to expect. The Riad was superb and we would recommend it.
So we took in the sights – and this was a very mixed experience. Some are delightful such as the Secret Garden, the Saadian Tombs and one evening meal in the main square, Jmaa El Fna where we ate snail soup and then at food stall 100 . However, Marrakech has many scammers, cheats and thieves … and we met some: the friendly person who shows you the way to the Tanneries and who is part of a scam gang that demand payment for the tour of the tanneries and then the walk to the Photography Museum; the waiter who cannot add up the four items on your lunch bill and when challenged has a hard time getting it right; the food stall that delivers your order split on two plates but then demands double payment (stall 75) … and others have experienced many more and worse …
So, contrast the experience in the souk at Sale close by the marina in Rabat where the stall holder did not speak very good French, overcharged for some yoghurt and then realised what he had done and came running down the street to refund the overcharge which was about 80p.
So, what overall did we make of Marrakech? First, we abide by our tourismo maxim that if you don’t go you don’t know. However, it is not an exemplar of Morocco and its people. It seems to be something of a parody of its former self: the elaborately dressed water-seller who is only there to be photographed for a fee, the snake charmers with their cobras again for the photograph and fee, the overpriced merchandise (incidentally before buying anything a visit to the Ensemble Artisanal provides price benchmarks as they are fixed and published, with no bargaining), the rip-off cafes … Yet it is not all like that – the staff at our Riad were lovely and some of the most hospitable that we have ever met; the staff at food stall 100 were honest and generous with the food portions; the folks at the Ensemble Artisanal were helpful and direct. A mixed bag then, but not wholly a representation of wider Morocco.
12 September 2018
We left Porto Santo just after 0900 on Tuesday 4th September with 480nm to Rabat.
Our forecast was for winds 8-12kts backing from NNE to N and then NNW, but running out about 150nm from Rabat. That was pretty much what we got with SOG for the first two days a tad over 5kts and a beam or close reach. The wind eased and veered so we could not hold the rhumb line for about 12 hours so SOG dropped to 4.5kts. Then with 120nm to go we lost the wind and had to motor for the last 24 hours.
We arrived off the Wadi Bouregreg about 1000 on Saturday 8th September and called up the marina on VHF 10. A pilot boat came out and guided us along the channel and through the bustle of the rowing boats ferrying folks across the river, to the reception pontoon where customs, immigration and police were waiting for us.
Clearance was easy and straightforward, and the officials were charming and polite. The police officer looked in a couple of lockers and drawers and they brought a sniffer dog on board to scout around the deck. The dog appeared to have been doing quite a lot of sniffing and inhaling as it looked quite spaced out …
We were escorted to a berth and helped to tie up. All was well.
So, time for some organisation and tourismo. SIM card and data package bought in the Sale medina nearby and then exploration.
Rabat is lovely. We took the rowing boat ferry across the river, walked the 12th century Oudaia Kasbah, lost ourselves in the medina, took the modern and frequent tram service into the centre of Rabat, visited the imposing 12thC Bab el-Rouah (Gate of the Winds – well it is a must for sailors), strolled to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V (re-united the country achieving independence from France and Spain; grandfather of the current king Mohammed VI) which is guarded by horse-mounted soldiers and others at the entrances and inside the mausoleum, and viewed close up the eight centuries-old Hassan Tower.
The people are really very welcoming, incredibly polite and utterly charming. We started to walk into the magnificent grounds of the palace when a security guy stopped us (Morocco seems not to have bought into the need for signage and tourist information) and was very nice about it, patiently explaining what we had to do and where to go. One of the guards inside the Mohammed V mausoleum called Phil over after he had taken his photograph and asked to see the photo. Then he said “please delete”. Seemed as if a breach of etiquette had occurred but no, he pulled himself up to his full height, composed himself and said “now photograph”. He just wanted to be sure we got his best profile …
With the Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman film ‘Casablanca’ being our number 1 film of all time, we had to visit the city. So, train to Casa Port, then ‘petit-taxi’ to the Hassan II mosque for the 1100 guided tour – non-Muslims can visit between prayer times but must join a guided tour which starts at the museum and where you buy tickets.
The Mosque is the third largest in the world (after Mecca and Medina) enabling 25,000 men to pray on the hall floor and 5,000 women to pray in the gallery. It took seven years to build with 35,000 craftsmen working on it and opened in 1993 – Hassan II was the father of the current king. The ornamentation, the quality and range of the materials, the design, the scale and the art in the work are utterly outstanding. It is a WOW. We will not go into gender issues but we were reassured that if more than 5000 women turned up and there were fewer than 25,000 men then the surplus women could pray on the hall floor … at the back … behind the men …
Apparently the true cost is unknown but the figure of US$800 millions was quoted to us but with the caveat that it was a substantial underestimate.
As for Humph and Ingrid, we walked to Rick’s Café – remember: “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. We had a lovely Moroccan meal BUT …. NO GIN … NO BEER … NO WINE … It is alcohol free … However, it is very nicely appointed with 1940s music, a piano if you can play “As Time Goes By”, and delightful staff. You have to be sympathetic to the Moroccan and Muslim attitude to alcohol – it is their country but it would have been nice to toast Rick, Ilsa and of course Captain Louis Renault with a martini.
We wandered through the old medina but really Casablanca offers little other than the Hassan II Mosque.
Well, more tourismo is planned – first Marrakech and Essaouira and later next week to Ouarzazate and the south-east of the country.
Porto Santo then
03 September 2018
In 2009 we stayed just one night on passage from Portugal to Madeira so did not explore the island. It is a major holiday destination. The beach stretches 7 miles from the harbour in the north to Calheta in the south with the town of Vila Baleira a quarter of the way along. The hotels and villas are in the south.
The town is quite pleasant with Christopher Columbus’s house now a museum. There is not much indication of what the interior of the house was like in CC’s day. Why did he have a house here? He married the Governor’s daughter and was trading here. We just cannot get away from the man.
We took an open-top bus tour of the island and it does have some great views as the photos in the Gallery show. Arid with scrubby vegetation and some steep volcanic cones characterise the island. There is good provisioning and we found a couple of good hardware shops for some boat essentials.
Our time here has been very relaxed and sociable as we have met fellow OCC members David and Lindsay on GOLDCREST and Rena and Brendan on CREAN – the craic has been mighty.
So now we prepare to leave for Rabat, Morocco, some 480nm and hope to arrive on Friday 7th or Saturday 8th September.
Farewell Santa Maria
03 September 2018 | Porto Santo
Our last walk took us to the north coast with some quite varied scenery including a volcanic residue that is desert-like and a meander around a promontory before arriving in Anjos where there is another memorial to Christopher Columbus.
This was the place that got the first news that CC had discovered what he thought was the East Indies, on his way back to Spain on his first voyage. It was somewhat appropriate that we had seen both nodes of his voyage having visited his memorial on Long Island, Bahamas – either his first or second landfall.
Anjos is a popular holiday village with a safe swimming area and a very busy café where we quenched our thirsts before taking a taxi back to Vela do Porto.
We thoroughly enjoyed Santa Maria and it is one of our favourite Azores islands.
Our passage to Porto Santo was fine and for much of the time we had 12-15kts NNE wind which allowed us to make the course on a close reach, occasionally the backing wind would make that a beam reach. We had a spell of 10 hours when the wind dropped to 1-5kts and had to motor. We kept sailing when the wind was at 8kts but less than that it was a struggle.
We arrived at Porto Santo at 2300 on Tuesday 25th August and anchored outside the harbour near the beach. The 508nm had taken 3 days and 15 hours.
On Wednesday morning we upped anchor and entered the harbour to pick up a mooring – 15% of the cost of a pontoon berth.
Santa Maria walks
23 August 2018
There are some great walks on the island with downloadable maps and excellent signage, so we have been taking the bus to various points and doing 6 to 10 km walks. The views are fabulous and the island is not too busy - a contrast with Sao Miguel.
We met a very nice Portuguese couple, Helena and Paulo (on holiday from Lisbon) on one walk and then they have very kindly transported us about in their hire car. We did a very steep descent on Wednesday with them, from Santo Espirito to Maia, dropping 600 feet in about a quarter of a mile. The ascent would have been tough.
So we have a another walk planned and some more provisioning and then it looks like we should have good wind for a Saturday departure for the 500nm passage to Porto Santo, just north of Madeira.
Photos in The Gallery