We made our first landfall in the Canary Islands on Lanzarote. We were exceptionally pleased to see Arrecife emerging in the distance, as this 36 hour sail was our roughest passage to date. We think we were in 5-6 meter swell most of the time, with wind about 30 knots and no doubt gusting more. When looking at the wind map beforehand we carefully avoided setting off in such conditions, but when we were finally able to leave the quaint fishing harbour at Essaouria (our bolt hole for much longer than intended) we found ourselves in these seas. The best thing about the trip was that the boat felt good, and even though it was rough, we both took our share of tasks. No messy seasickness from me, and the Captain even slept!
Some new experiences included:
Visiting the Canary Islands! (only new for me) Magnus has visited several times, including with his family many years ago. Whilst here we had a historical tour of the popular Swedish family mecca at Playa Blanca, and recreated a scene with stones from long ago, albeit minus an eager 7 yo Johan, and a sprightly 73 yo farmor.
Walking up and around volcanos – these subtropical islands were formed by countless volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and there is some volcanic activity still.
A guided tour of a super yacht thanks to a Swedish crew member. We were fortunate enough to have a 33 m racing yacht docked opposite us in a marina, and we were privy to a very interesting tour. It was preparing for the Transatlantic race, with 15 crew aboard, including several Aussies. The boat had a bathtub, but to keep racing weight down each crew could bring only 7 kg of luggage! The boat was to have its container of removed (read “heavy”) cruising comforts shipped to meet it in the Caribbean, as you do.
Playing paddle! Thanks to our compatriates from Västerås from SV Marie Louise; Anki and I tried a new racquet sport. It was super fun, and very good exercise especially for the abdominals. We were breathless with laughter much of the time, and were grateful that no passing tourists were concussed by wayward balls, which seemed to comprise about 50% of our total shots. The very kind and patient Marie Louise Captain and first mate were much better than us newbies!
Doing the grocery shopping and returning with the nutritious haul by taxi. So far our trusty bikes or less trustworthy legs and arms have borne our fodder requirements, but we needed a big restock this time.
Having dear friends visiting. We had the pleasure of the warm company of Jan and Anki for a week. This couple truly scatter “joie de vie” around them like confetti – and their sense of fun is infectious. Their sailing expertise and energy were gratefully received, and I know Magnus appreciated Jan’s technical support with several unexpected electrical problems. On one of these occasions, I was hovering helpfully? nearby while Magnus had his head buried deep in the engine compartment, but fully understood when he instructed me curtly to go up and steer, and “send Jan down here!”
Reuniting with our fellow Västerås cruisers on SV Marie Louise. This lovely family live on same street as Magnus and departed Sweden just before we did. They have sailed all the way down to The Canary Islands, and have had many adventures on the way. We have kept in touch, and it was super fun to meet up and exchange stories and laughs, and share information.
Really nice sailing days, and some beautiful anchorages – the adventure has really begun!
Using our new anchor successfully. (The anchor is AKA the Captain’s stillnox…) Magnus slept on the first night, and by the second was snoring like a train. Tick.
Bidding a sad farewell to a well loved family heirloom… The dear 30 year old egg cooker began to flag a little this week, and was finally laid to rest in Marina Rubicon, almost 5,000 km south of where it began its faithful service to Magnus’s family long long ago. RIP little white egg shaped appliance.
The batteries fully dumping charge, and almost concurrently the engine not starting. They were independent problems, but occurring close together made it harder to separate and solve them.
Having to wade shoulder deep to clamber back into the dinghy from the beach. My pleasant shore expedition from the anchored boat ended in an unscheduled and quite chilly swim! This happened as Magnus faithfully returned to shore to collect me – (we have joked about this NOT happening, so as you can imagine I was somewhat relieved…) and summoning me to wade out to the dinghy as it richoched around in the chop a fair way off the sand. When I got to chest deep, holding the phone aloft, I had to stop and hope the dinghy may approach a little further. Not only was it pretty cold, the clumsy dinghy embarkation was hilarious for the people on the beach apparently!
MANY conversations over the week that were interrupted by involuntary bouts of giggles. We concluded that some of our crew were “part time senile”, which was bad enough, but also resembled Patsy and Eddie from “Ab Fab” more often than anyone would like to admit – albeit minus about 90% of their liquid diet.
Food and Bevvy highlights:
Undoubtedly all the Swedish goodies personally imported by our generous visitors. Our bounty included Swedish favourites such as smoked salmon and special sauce, kaviar, sil, plock godis, anchovies, marabou chocolate, HOLIDAY DIP etc etc etc and also some Christmas fare….
Glögg! How have I known a Swede for so long before being introduced to this special kind of beautifully spiced mulled Christmas wine! Jan and Anki made sure we had plenty of the special spice blend to make glögg when the real day for it arrives…
Delicious Italian food, complemented by the most gigantic pepper grinder I have ever seen!
The novelty of an enormous FRIED calzone…. the frying completely changed the texture of the wheaten casing. Who knew?
A early Christmas celebration, complete with Chinese food, Christmas decorations, music, presents, fortune cookies, and Swedish food!
Delicious Lanzarote cheese accompanying sundowners on Marie Louise when reuniting with the Västerås gang.
I hate to repeat myself here…. but, AGAIN auto pilot repair. The Captain says “the final fix.”
Upgrade to 4 x 100 Ah AGM batteries – we hope our power problems will disappear now.
Hot wiring option to bypass faulty ignition if required… why not? I am starting to wonder about Magnus’s (possibly chequered?) past.
Many photo credits must go to Anki P H. Not only was she good company, she almost single handedly filled the role of Almazul’s chief photographer this week. Thanks Anki – AKA Patsy!
We have dug our toes deeply into the silken Sahara sand…. quite a surreal experience, as only a few months ago we were scrubbing it from Almazul’s deck all the way up in Barcelona. The sand is so fine it is almost liquid; and I can well imagine it being carried for many miles on a stiff breeze. We have sailed south from our first port of call in Africa, along the Moroccan coast – visiting some intriguing places along the way.
Some new experiences included:
Visiting the Sahara Desert – the vastness and beauty of the wind sculpted ochre dunes provided an almost spiritual experience. “We are but a grain of sand….etc”
Going on a real “tour” tour, like real tourists! On a mini bus and everything! (Magnus has taken to wearing a bum bag permanently, and me the occasional backpack, so we are definitely well qualified quintessential tourists!) We toured from Marrakech to The Sahara Desert and back, via the incredible Atlas Mountains, Todor Valley, Tingir, and Merzouga to mention a few.
Riding a camel – I don’t know why but I was very keen on doing this – and was quite swept away by the whole thing! (I think it was the compulsory headscarf that did it! One of our fellow tourists did not take hers off!)
Meeting a local young man in an unorthodox way, and learning about Moroccan life, and some of the inherent struggles.
Trying shisha! The decorative pipe that burns the very mild blend of herbs (mint in our case) and tobacco is beautiful in form, but looks illicit to me! Apparently not, and the pipe seems to create a centre for a social circle. So I wondered if we needed one for the boat to welcome guests, like a cool sangria in Spain? But apparently we don’t. 😂
Finally watching the film Casablanca. Of course we had to, prior to visiting its namesake city. Whilst there we tried to go to Rick’s bar – but missed opening hours. Maybe that was lucky, because I think the bum bag and backpack may have looked out of place…..🙄
A mint tea ceremony in a carpet shop of sorts…. what a novelty! (not really of course..) BTW no carpet was purchased, despite expert persistent targeted encouragement.
Turtles! Seeing a little turtle toddling around a hotel courtyard was pure delight.
Sale market – a part of Rabat that appears untouched by tourists – and we could go about our business without attention. It gave us the chance to actually look at things in the souk instead of marching along, eyes ahead, mouth fixed in grim determination!
Visiting Marrakech. In my youth, this was a destination of choice for adventurous backpackers, and I was looking forward to visiting. While we enjoyed the vibrant hubbub (snake charmers, hundreds of horses and carts, music, food, LIFE) we also were happy to retire to a cool tiled courtyard with some mint tea!
Going to the Sahara Desert, hands down.
Visiting Casablanca‘s Hassan II Mosque – stunning beauty on an enormous scale. It is the largest mosque in Africa, and can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers! The MCG has about the same capacity- for a different kind of worship.
The first mate being seasick for a full 48 hour passage. 😟 I was functional, but almost completely non verbal…. This may in fact have been a relief for the Captain, but things did get messy for a moment! I guess it had to happen eventually…
Not having a hammam. I was looking forward to this essential Moroccan bathing/scrubbing experience.(well kind of looking forward to it…. you know the kind of heady anticipation thickly laced with trepidation…) The trepidation crept in when some fellow boaters reported a very vigorous scrubbing, along with a very thorough rinsing with forcibly thrown buckets of water, often at face height. They came away several kilos of dead skin lighter, and with the feeling that they should avoid the sun and wear soft clothes for a few days! 😂
Official whistling. We learned that if we heard a whistle being blown sharply and with purpose- it was not because we were near a basketball game, it was that we, or somebody else nearby was breaching an unwritten law, or broaching an invisible boundary, or generally unwittingly engaging in a mysterious misdemeanour. It was easy to clear up which particular misdemeanour you were accidentally performing by asking the guard, police officer etc. For us it was usually crossing an invisible boundary, say, on the way to a petrol station. (Stupidly we walked towards one when it was closed. Ensue furious whistling..) One day I was walking along the footpath, along with many other people. When I realised that the insistent whistling was in fact to me, I stopped. The police officer simply asked where I was going (the supermarche) and then helped me with directions. Oh good, no jail then!?
Magnus playing chicken with a mad 10 year old on a bike in a crowded souk. This could have ended in tears, but in fact ended with much laughter from both Magnus and the boy. We first met the crazy 10 year old as he skilfully slid through the humming crowd of bustling shoppers in a really busy street. It was difficult to squeeze through on foot, but he weaved his way through with confident precision- just almost brushing the Captain’s arm on his way past. A few minutes later we met the same boy in a less crowded street, and as he rode towards us, Magnus started to play chicken. (Oh God, really?!) The boy was right up for it – he accepted the challenge gleefully, and came like a bullet straight for Magnus, dodging him artfully at the last second. .. A happy ending all round, as smiling backward glances and chuckles were exchanged between the boys, young and old. (I however, was busy Pilates breathing… 😂)
Near death by taxi. I have almost met an untimely end several times under the wheels of a careening Mercedes taxi of 1970s vintage. However if I have to meet an untimely end this may be quite a fitting way to do it. This is because firstly; it is a distinct possibility at any moment; (TBH I think it must happen several times a day on average if you live here) and secondly; it ties in quite nicely with an assertion I made when I was somewhere in the vicinity of 20 years old. I told myself that one day I would drive a red Mercedes sports car. Times change, but I do think it would be quite appropriate if I were to meet my end under the wheels of a classic old Mercedes. (However, for the time being I am seeking to avoid being in close proximity to Mercedes cabs at all times, just to be safe!)
Being the only sailboat in a fishing harbour, and an authentic old fishing harbour used as a setting for Game of Thrones to be precise! We felt a little conspicuous, but the very friendly greeting and help from local people quickly made us feel at home. A second sailboat joined us the nest day, so we’re no longer “the only gay in the village.”
Food and Bevvy highlights:
Receiving a Tagine as a very generous gift from our new Moroccan friend. I have been wishing for one – they are so beautiful and can produce such deliciously tender food, but of course not practical on a boat, so we could not buy one. However when one receives a gift….. serendipity at work 🧡
Sharing a boat dinner of delectable Chinese spicy chicken cooked by a fellow boater… she kindly only put four chilies in for our comfort, but truly delicious.
Getting through my list of Moroccan dishes to taste and cook while here. We have ticked off Zalouk, (eggplant dip/ratatouille), Harira (hearty lamb soup), Tagine and cous cous of course, pastilla…. nearly there!
Auto pilot failure, and repair again…. Magnus really thinks he has fixed it this time. Fingers crossed. He is growing his hair long, so as to disguise how much of it he has torn out while fixing this temperamental beast!
Batteries draining inexplicably – maybe one is faulty? Disconnected and trial in progress.
Printer purchased and in situ.
Essaouria has reputedly been a setting for filming GOT and Pirates of the Caribbean, without much staging required.