Essaouira

Written by Pieter Jan on Dec 29, 2019 — 4 min read

At: Essaouira, Morocco

Right before arriving in Essaouira, we celebrated Mira’s birthday. She turned 4 today. Being at sea is no reason not to celebrate!

Balloons!
Balloons!
A crown!
A crown!
Presents!
Presents!

Barbara baked pancakes and we had a feast in the harbor of Essaouira. It’s a special experience to eat sweet pancakes in a fish smell so thick you could slice it.

A pancake tower
A pancake tower
Blowing out the candles
Blowing out the candles
Yummie pancakes!
Yummie pancakes!

As our diesel tanks were almost empty after the two day trip, I found some guys to get diesel with me. They rustled up six 20-liter jerrycans and a trike with some dead fish on the loading platform. Off we went to the petrol station. I sat with one butt cheek on a tiny ledge next to the driver. The other guy was on the loading platform but had to jump out every time we passed the police. The driver quickly handed me his helmet.

The trike may not have had working brakes. It was a challenge to evade the millions of tourists that descended upon Essaouira for the Christmas holidays. We got back safely to the boat, even though the thought “This sure would be a stupid way to die” flashed through my head several times.

Getting diesel, Essaouira style. That smile is a cover for my terror
Getting diesel, Essaouira style. That smile is a cover for my terror

Back at the boat, two more guys helped me get the diesel in the tanks. This involved a big hose and one of the men sucking the jerrycan opening to create a vacuum. They deserved their baksheesh.

So many seagulls
So many seagulls
Fishermen's skiffs
Fishermen's skiffs
Repairing the nets
Repairing the nets

We took in the sights of the harbor, when one of the skiffs got loose and drifted over to Vite & Rêves. I fastened ‘Fatiha²’ to our boat. After a few hours a boat full of fishermen came alongside. “Shukran! Shukran!" they thanked us. We gave them some leftover pancakes.

Fatiha² floats over to say hello to Vite & Rêves
Fatiha² floats over to say hello to Vite & Rêves

Half of the fishermen entered Fatiha² and started preparing the the boat to go fishing. This involves putting on waterproof pants, making mint tea, smoking a bamboo hash pipe and connecting a chart plotter to a car battery.

The other skiff went away and came back with a large eel that they offered us. They also explained how to cook it by showing the ingredients we needed: olives, lemon, parsley and carrots. We thanked them and said goodbye when they left port. I found someone to clean the fish in the harbor.

The big eel is ours
The big eel is ours

In the evening we went grocery shopping and then to a restaurant (M’Riste Jouhar, recommended). The wine was served in a teapot, because they had no license for wine. As we exited the restaurant, we got a call from our friends who were having a cheese and wine evening. They even sang for Mira’s birthday! It was good to see them all again.

Into the town
Into the town

Essaouira itself is a nice little town, but very touristy. It was a bit jarring to see that many white faces again after nearly a month in Morocco. With the tourism also come less desirable aspects: aggressive begging (“Hey you, give me one dirham”), public drunkenness, drug dealing. I couldn’t walk alone without encountering someone every twenty steps asking me if I wanted ‘hashish marihuana’. Tanger and Rabat were much more chill in this regard.

The port of Essaouira is also inexplicably expensive: 270 dirham (€ 27) for a night, that’s almost double the rate of other Moroccan marinas. And it has nothing: no docks, no showers or toilets, no wifi, nothing, just a lot of people angling for baksheesh. I was not surprised to learn that a boat of Brazilians left just the week before without paying. If you’re a cruiser thinking about going to Essaouira, think twice or try to anchor in the bay. Agadir is also probably a better choice.

When we got back to the boat, we discovered that a heavy steel French ketch had moored alongside Vite & Rêves. During the night a leftover swell came into the harbor and put our mooring lines, that now had to bear this extra weight, under a lot of stress. I got up twice to readjust the lines. We felt like Vite & Rêves was being quartered and were happy to leave in the morning.

Canary islands, here we come!