Sailing Again

Written by Pieter Jan on Dec 24, 2019 — 4 min read

From: Tangier, Morocco
To: Rabat, Morocco

Haaaaaaaaa! It feels good to be sailing again. We spent no less than 16 days in Tangier, about 12 days more than we expected to. We left Tangier in good spirits. We motored into the wind for an hour to round Cape Spartel, then we hoisted the spinnaker. We started sailing at an easy 4 to 8 knots south.

The northern coast of Morocco
The northern coast of Morocco

Sailing in Morocco has its challenges. For one thing, the harbors are quite far apart. No problem, you’d say, just anchor in between. But that is not allowed. I’m not sure what they’re afraid of. Unbridled sunbathing? Illegal beach parties? Maybe they’re protecting the cruisers from themselves. The Atlantic surf looked fairly intimidating, with three story building waves breaking on the coast.

You don't want to get caught in that surf
You don't want to get caught in that surf

The government paranoia is also apparent in the checkin/checkout procedures. You have to go through customs in every single port you visit, not only on checking in, but also on checking out. Even for a daysail. Every time, officials will come aboard and search your boat for contraband. Every port fills up a page in your passport with big red stamps. It’s a bit of a circus, but on the other hand it’s good for employment, so there’s that. Thankfully, the officials are always very friendly and polite.

We sailed onward in a gentle breeze. Mira got seasick, a few hours later Andreas too. Not used to sailing anymore after two weeks in the marina, I guess. It could have been the Atlantic swell. This swell is huge, but gentle. Waves are 3 to 4 meters high, but 50 meters or more wide. It feels like driving through a hilly countryside.

Sunset on the Atlantic
Sunset on the Atlantic

The sun set and we sailed into the night. In Africa, the darkness at night is complete. Outside a few cities, there are only some small villages sprinkled along the coast, with big distances between them. We were sailing about 5 miles out the coast. On the starboard side we had the total blackness of the Atlantic Ocean. On the port side it was, most of the time, impossible to discern land from sea. But the starry sky was magnificent. We haven’t seen that many stars since Greece.

Barbara went to sleep as I took the night watch. Around 4:00 I thought I heard somebody talking outside. Fishermen this close? I went outside and looked straight in the beady little eyes of a flock of seagulls hovering right behind the boat. They were as surprised as I was. I probably foiled their attack plan because they took off after a stare-down.

Around 6:00 we sailed into a thick fog bank. Visibility was reduced to 50 meters. “Well, so much for checking for fishing boats,” I thought and went back to a 30 minute nap. What can you do?

The wind fell away around 7:00. Barbara woke and we turned on the engines.

“How do you watch out for fishing boats in this fog?”

“I don’t.”

Okay…

Sunrise above Morocco
Sunrise above Morocco
The fishermen fortunately waited until daytime to go fishing
The fishermen fortunately waited until daytime to go fishing

Around 14:00 we arrived in Rabat. The swell creates huge waves over a sand bar at the entrance of the harbor. It’s not always possible to enter, depending on the tide and the swell height. I called the marina for about 20 minutes on the VHF. They didn’t answer, but they did send a pilot to guide us across the bar. We dodged small fishing boats while surfing behind the pilot.

The pilot boat disappears behind a wave
The pilot boat disappears behind a wave
This is where you end up if you don't follow the pilot
This is where you end up if you don't follow the pilot
This building seems really surprised by where it ended up
This building seems really surprised by where it ended up

We docked in the marina after jumping through the usual bureaucratic hoops. There we could finally chill out. Sunny, 22º, not bad for Christmas eve!

Andreas chilling with the buoys
Andreas chilling with the buoys