16 – 18 September 2011
PORTUGAL TO MOROCCO
Time to say goodbye …………. Not so easy to leave probably the best anchorage we have had in 4 years but autumn is here, the birds are migrating – and so must we.
Our passage from Culatra in Portugal to Rabat in Morocco was around 190 miles, and we needed to time our arrival into Rabat just before high tide and preferably in daylight. Of course you never know how fast or slow you will sail, and will there even be wind – maybe we will need to motor. We needed a forecast of light winds because if there is too much wind and Atlantic swell setting on the Moroccan coast then the bar entrance, even at high tide, is unsafe and the harbour is closed. The skippers had mulled over it for many hours (and beers), Clare and I had turned into galley wenches and prepared meals and snacks for the journey, with spare meals made just in case the bar was closed and we had to continue on.
1pm on Friday the 16th of September was deemed to be the optimum time to depart Europe's shores and head south to the African mainland and back to Morocco. We had some interesting tidal whirlpools in the Faro/Olháo channel as we departed but once we cleared the entrance and headed out into open water all was calm, we pointed to windward, raised sails, set our course and had a very pleasant sail south in the light afternoon seabreeze.
We really could not have wished for better conditions, the seas were flat with very little swell, the light winds just in front of the beam, not a cloud in the sky, a perfect sunset, and an almost full moon, magic.
The wind died out around 4am, but we had had a very good run so accepted our fate and continued under motor. At dawn we noticed a school of fish swimming along besides the cockpit, we think they were getting a free ride in our slip stream and they stayed with us all day until we got just enough wind to sail again at 3pm.
Our 2nd night kept us on our toes. The winds were still light but we had the shipping coming and going out of the Gibraltar Straits to contend with and then just over 20 miles off shore we hit the fishing boats with long surface nets.
Actually we didn’t hit them, but we came very close to some of the nets and without the two of us up on watch we might well have ended up in the fish market for sale the following day. The nets were a couple of miles long, with a big flashing light on one end and the fishing boat at the other, some of the floats had little lights that were impossible to see. With much care and skilful sailing by Skipper we navigated our way safely through the maze of lights and popped out the other side into clear water and headed straight for the river entrance. We rendezvoused with Eye Candy, radioed the marina and awaited their escort to guide us over the bar, up the river and to the Arrivals Dock.
It had been a tiring but good trip - and an excellent welcome back to Morocco.