Voyage of Traveler / Blog

October 10, 2009

Traveler Postcard From Cartegena, Malaga, Gibraltar, Tangier and Rabat

That means “peace” in Arabic and is the common greeting here in Morocco and throughout the Arab world.

Cartegena, September 27, Michael, Brian and Jake.
After sailing through the night, we arrive mid-day in a storm.  The wind was blowing 20, with gusts to 30, with steady rain and lightning.  In spite of the weather, the Cartegena YC went ahead with their End of the Season Regatta with about 30 boats racing out of the harbor as we motored in.  We took a berth at a new marina and never saw the town due to the rain.  At 0330, Jake woke up because a cucaracha had crawled into bed with him and Jake pulled the big fat bug out of his hair.  We all got up, sprayed the boat from bow to stern, and with head lamps on killed 30+ of them, in all sizes, over the next 20 minutes.  Hard to go back to sleep after that.  So we motored over to the fuel dock, which is self-serve 24/7 using a credit card to pay, and topped off the tank while it lightly drizzled.  Then we departed “Cucaracha Cartegena” for Malaga at 0500.

Malaga, September 29 to October 1.
We motor-sailed through the night for the 185 nm from Cartegena to Malaga, arrived at dawn and entered the commercial harbor. The YC had no room for us and a night watchman there directed us the main quay, where we tied up stern to the wharf next to about 40 other boats, all of them local.  I found it odd that there were no other cruising boats in the entire harbor.  As we shut down the engine we noticed heavy smoke coming from the engine compartment, which filled the cabin when I opened the hatch to check it out.  I found that two of the three bolts that connect the exhaust elbow to the turbo charger had sheered off causing an exhaust leak, a lot of noise and a loss of compression. While we were in the North Wind yard in Barcelona, we had a mechanic change those bolts, at the recommendation of the surveyor, from regular steel to high temperature steel, and the mechanic simply over-torqued the nuts when reconnecting the two parts causing metal fatigue on the bolts.  They broke off with normal engine vibration, after less than 100 engine hours.  To complicate matters, the Port Police came by and said we had to move the boat because we had taken the berth of a local boat who was expected back sometime soon, and visiting yachts were not permitted to stay there anyway.  Well, we couldn’t move the boat until the repairs were made, and it took three days and cost 600 Euros to fix the problem.  The Port Police came by the boat–I’m not exaggerating–about 30 times over those three days to see how the repairs were coming and when we were leaving.  Not very hospitable or accommodating.

Gibraltar, October 2.  What a delightful and fascinating place.  We motored the 65nm from Malaga to “Gib” through the night in calm conditions.  We arrived at this British colony at dawn and left the same day at sunset, which is just enough time to see it all because it is so small.  We hired a tour guide who drove us around the Rock for a three-hour tour.  We saw St. Michael’s Cavern, a huge natural grotto that was once home to Neolithic inhabitants, with a 100,000 year-old female Neanderthal skull found there in 1848.  The cavern is so huge that in one part it has a stage and seating for about 500 for concerts and plays, surrounded by amazing stalactites and stalagmites.  After the cave, we played with and fed the famous Gibraltar monkeys, actually Barbary macaques, Europe’s only wild primates.  We also enjoyed walking through the Great Siege Tunnels, hand-hewn by the British for placing artillery during the battles with Spain from 1779 to 1783.  Gibraltar has been a strategic military installation during both World Wars, and it was bombed by the Italians in 1942.  The latest siege came as recently as 1960 when Spain, under the rule of General Franco, tried to take it back from Britain, who has controlled the Rock since 1704.  The border between Gibraltar and Spain was closed and under heavy military control from 1960 to 1985, when it finally reopened.  Gibraltar has been self-governing since 1969 and has its own parliament and flag.  During ancient Roman and Greek times, Gibraltar was one of the two “Pillars of Hercules,” the other being across the strait in Morocco.  From here, Hercules mythically split Europe from Africa and strait between them represented the western edge of the known world, beyond which early sailors dared not venture.

Tangier, October 2 to 7.
With our short passage SW across the strait, less than 30 miles from Gibraltar to Tangier, we not only went from Europe to Africa but also from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a significant milestone on our circumnavigation.  We also had a crew change here.  Jake, who has been with us since Nice on August 17, flew home.  Jake had a great time, seeing six countries on two continents in six weeks.  And Yansen, our Indonesian friend we met in Bali and who crewed with us from there to Singapore, was scheduled to join us just two days after the deadly earthquakes in his home town of Padang.  We were doubting he would make it out of Padang, and were concerned that maybe he or his family were hurt in the quakes.  All power was cut off in the city of 900,000, so were were unable to confirm his status by phone or email. But Yansen made it, and we were very glad to be reunited at the Tangier Airport.  Yansen will be with Brian and me for the rest of the voyage, over the next nine months.  October 3 also marked the 21st birthday for Brian.  (Of course, it was also the big Twenty-One for his twin brother Scott, who celebrated in Berkeley.)  For Brian, we took a guided tour of the town, including the old medina and kasbah, rode camels and had a traditional Moroccan feast. I bought him a Moroccan rug as a souvenir and birthday present.  Another memorable moment here in Tangier was playing soccer on the beach at low tide with the locals.

Rabat, arrived October 8, Michael, Brian and Yansen.
We are docked at the new Bouregreg Marina in the ancient capital of Rabat, Morocco, with Traveler berthed next to the King’s fleet of five yachts, so you can imagine the security.  We had a dock party last night with the other yachties, about 30 people from eight countries, on 13 boats, with four other boats from the US. It is the most US boats I’ve seen together anywhere since leaving the Hawaiian Islands. Brian wore his Fez and Tangier t-shirt (with camels caravaning across the Sahara) and he played his African drum, while the rest of us traded books and DVDs, drank a few beers and traded cruising stories of high adventure. We will be in Morocco for another week or two, then off to the Canary Islands…

Living the Dream,
Michael, Brian and Yansen

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