|All tidy ready for going to sea|
The last Thursday in October saw a mass exodus from Marina Bouregreg of boats who had been couped up in port during the big swell wanting to leave for destinations south. Temptress joined the queue – the immigration authorities had given all six or seven boats the same time for checking out 11am – the reception pontoon is only long enough for two boats with a third alongside the wall itself. Fortunately the marina staff realised the potential problem and instructed each boat on whether to wait in their berth or move out to the immigration quayside across the marina. Before 13:00 we were sailing south towards Essaouira (S-swear-ra - we think!) some two hundred and thirty nautical miles further down the Moroccan coast. The crew were hoping it would be warmer, Rabat was beginning to get a little cool in the evenings and northerly winds meant daytime temperatures were seriously reduced by the chill factor.
|Frederick & Julia aboard Susie Q|
Temptress rocked and rolled her way through the remainder of Thursday and into the early hours of Friday before the wind began to moderate a little and swing a bit to the east, off the land. The sea became calmer, the crew regained their sea legs and life became easier on board. Thursday night Kevin cooked yet more of the local spicy Mergauz sausages with onion gravy, cabbage and boiled potatoes. Friday lunchtime Susie experimented making Egg Paratha rolls using Arabic flatbread and four single egg omelettes to roll up in them, accompanied by some fried tomato, green pepper and chilli – tasty and by the fourth egg the chef finally got the hang of turning out the omelette onto the bread. Friday supper was a chicken risotto Kevin rustled up from the remains of a cooked chicken we’d purchased in a Rabat supermarket for lunch a couple of days before (good value for money as this was our third meal from it). The bones and seasoned skin made an excellent stock to cook the risotto with.
|Sunset thursday evening|
Friday morning we decided to try out our new Turkish fishing lure a gift from the crew of SY Istanbul some weeks ago. It was not a success; we caught no fish but that was mainly because despite various swivel/weight arrangements, the line twisted badly as the lure regularly bounced off the swell. Then the skipper managed not once but twice to lift up the rod in a manner that ensured he ensnared Fred our wind generator. There were several fraught moments but having binned three long lengths of twisted oily line during the course of the day we could only laugh at our cackhandedness then discuss ideas for repositioning the rod holder so our very bendy Tuna rod is less likely to act as a catapult for the lure. Alternatively we could get out Kevin’s big deep sea trolling reel that we have never used in ten year of ownership and workout how to mount it on the pulpit rails thus removing the rod from the equation altogether…. Just need a fishing tackle shop.
Passage planning for this voyage was always going to be a compromise; we couldn’t depart except at the time dictated by the marina authorities and the harbour entrance in Essaouira is only to be attempted during daylight hours as the locals often string fishing nets across it at night. We tried to go slower, something less than 5 knots would see us arrive on Saturday morning but it was not to be. Not only did we have a good F3-4 all the way either behind or abeam, Temptress fastest point of sail, there was also around one knot of favourable current so even sailing at less than 4.5 knots when the wind was at its gentlest on Friday evening Temptress was still making over five knots towards her intended destination.
|Rocks to the west of Essaouira (from the shore)|
Essaouira lies on the south east side of a rocky headland and the entrance with its very long seaward harbour wall faces south. To the west of the wall are some impressive rocks (a la Brittany coast) so we needed to stay well offshore in the approach. A mile or so to the south of the harbour is a small unlit island and the entrance to the bay is between the end of the wall and this. On the hills to the east to guide sailors in, is an occulting leading light WGR visible from miles out at sea. We simply sailed along the coast until we could pick out the leading light, initially red until once we’d progressed south enough we could see only its central white sector. At that point we turned to port (east or left) and motored down the the light beam at 130 degrees keeping it white, not red or green (the danger areas either side). Easy when you know how and despite the massive swells piling into the bay we made it through without problem.
Susie went forward to drop the hook and after a couple of circuits of the two boats already at anchor the skipper gave the signal to let go anchor. Thirty metres of chain were needed so by torch light Susie watched the chain markings, as the thirty metre marker went over the bow roller she eased her foot from the electric switch. Oh! The chain continued to rattle over the side at a fast rate, the down switch had jammed on. She put her foot on the up switch which instantly kicked in heaving the chain back up. The skipper came running up then disappeared as quickly to the master switch. Now what?
This was a serious problem that needed sorting. It was dark, we were tired but it had to be done. So at gone eleven thirty Kevin heaved out the toolbox and persuaded the waterproof cap off the switch. Basically old silicon sealant had worked its way free and into the hole around push button jamming it down. A quick clean up with WD40, some vaseline around to protect the switch and a new seal of silicon round the waterproof cover and normal service was resumed. After hot chocolate and a ceremonial opening of our last packet of chocolate hobnobs the crew both retired to bed sometime after 01:00am for a rocky rolly sleep during which the depth alarm went off at low water, the skipper got up to check but with 4.5m still under the keel and the swell a little less we were safe
|Fishing boats Essaouira|
The rocking and rolling got worse though around dawn as the wind died and Temptress swung to be beam onto the incoming swell – eventually we could stand it no longer and decided to explore the harbour. We approached cautiously to be hailed by Hassan master of the large bright orange Fisheries Protection vessel –“ici la!”. Hassan expertly caught each of our lines, Temptress was virtually aground, it being low water springs but we were soon tied up safe to the large dayglo orange vessel with Hassan telling us the office would not be open until around nine or nine thirty. He warned us we might need some cigarettes for the Port Capitaine but in fact this character in the last of three offices we visited was the most smiley and welcoming of all the welcoming officials we met. We should mention that in every office except the first, the Gendarmerie Royale, we had to fill in the same information each time on the various forms provided. The GR guy actually typed it into a document on his computer, a first for us in the country! By now we know our passport numbers and boat registration number almost as well as our date and place of birth and are pretty handy with French form filling.
Back at the boat after our trek round this small port’s official offices (they are situated in various corners not next door to one another) and Hassan leans over the rail of his fisheries boat – you will have supper with me at my house tonight be on the dock at 6pm. So there it is we won’t get to eat at Chez Sam on the adjacent quayside tonight. Plenty of time though to explore the wooden fishing boat building going on here and chat to the fishermen on the quayside and perhaps even explore the medina.