Flat Ocean

Written by Pieter Jan on Dec 28, 2019 — 3 min read

From: Rabat, Morocco
To: Essaouira, Morocco

We left Rabat around noon. We had to wait for the tide to be high enough so the swell waves wouldn’t break on the sandbar in the river mouth. The usual checkout checks ensued. This time the police even brought a sniffer dog! When they saw the children they elected to not bring it on board. The dog did a perfunctory sniff of the port hull.

We followed the pilot along the river to the sea.

Employing seagulls to keep an eye on the boat
Employing seagulls to keep an eye on the boat

We encountered dozens of fishermen’s skiffs and ferrymen rowing their passengers to the other shore.

The nightmares I had about Vite & Rêves battling huge breaking waves in the river mouth were unwarranted. The swell was light, not even one meter high. We exited the harbor, hoping for good winds.

The good winds didn’t materialize. Actually there was no materialization of any wind whatsoever. I tried hoisting the spinnaker, but the wind was so light that it kept falling in. It was generating too much shock loads when the wind did pick up half a knot, so we furled the spi and motored on.

I took the night watch. The trick, I found out, is not go to bed too late. It’s better to start at a decent hour with the half hour naps than to stay up as long as possible and then pass out, missing the subsequent timer alarms. Fishing boats appeared in the distance now and then, but none warranted a course change.

Barbara took the day watch around 7:00. A thick fog had emerged from the ocean in the windless morning. The ocean gained the appearance of a swimming pool after all the kids have left. A swimming pool with a vigorous fog machine, that is.

Very hard spotting fishing boats like this
Very hard spotting fishing boats like this

Luckily the one fishing skiff that we crossed heard us coming and sputtered out of the way.

The day was cold and gray. Nothing much happened. Barbara woke me up around 11:30 because a big ship appeared in the misty distance and she wasn’t sure which way it was going. I installed OpenCPN — a navigation program where you can also see other ships — on her laptop as well. Should’ve done that the day before.

I should really think about repairing that radar
I should really think about repairing that radar

Reading, watching a series’ episode, homeschooling. The day came and went.

I started my watch again. The first time my alarm went off, I woke up to see a red flashing light not even 100 meters in front of us. I closed my eyes, opened them again. The light was still there, only closer now. I spurted outside, turned off the autopilot and yanked the steering wheel hard to the right. We passed the buoy at less than a boat length away.

Only now did I see other lights: two green blinking lights, two yellow unblinking lights. All very close. I slalomed between them. Once I was passed I went in and checked the charts. No buoys. I added them I accurately as I could in Navionics. So, if you’re sailing past Safi, at 276º from the lighthouse, 11 miles out of the coast, keep a close watch. My next 30 minutes were not spent napping.

(EDIT: Renaat let me know that the buoys were placed because of recent Jan De Nul dredging works)

The next day the weather was sunny again. We followed the Moroccan coast down to Essaouira, where we arrived around noon, after two days at sea.

Arrival at Essaouira
Arrival at Essaouira