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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Oct 8 & 9, 2018 Morocco to Graciosa

10 am departure. Started the customs checkout process at 8.
Uneventful for several hours. Other than a couple of fishing boats and nets.
These blobs are marking fishing buoys
Into night, there is no moon. I looked straight up and immediately saw a shooting star. I told Frank that is our good omen for a nice little passage. We have about 220 miles and some 33 hours to go to reach Graciosa in the Canaries. It is absolutely black out but the stars are visible through the patchy marine haze. It’s quite damp. Frank is down for a rest I see strange flashing lights off to the port side. Nothing shows up on AIS or radar. They seem to be getting closer but I couldn’t tell what was going on with them as they became erratic seeming to jump from spot to spot. We are off the coast of Africa, Western Sahara and I don’t know why our insurance company didn’t want us to go there so my mind is running through scenarios. Are there pirates around here? If so, why would they use a light...don’t they sneak around in darkness? Maybe it is flashing erratically to throw me off so I won’t know from which direction they are coming? Is it a fishing boat? I woke Frank because although I am not yet terrified maybe I needed some reassurance. 

He came up and told me to go get some rest. Really? He’s not worried about this oddity so I should just go get some rest. Ok, maybe I’m just tired and my mind is going haywire. I go down and try to rest but it’s only about 9:00 p.m. I can’t sleep - came up an hour later and Frank said the flashing lights appeared to be some kind of buoy. Maybe a fishing buoy, who knows but one got real close and he said the lights became very bright, about 4 feet from the surface. We both stayed up for a while until he went back down for some sleep around 11:30 p.m. No way I was sleeping with my mind on full alert now watching for fishing buoys and possibly
nets. I spotted three more of the strange lights around midnight. We sure wouldn’t want to hit one since we don’t know what they are. I’m being extra vigilant.

Around 2:00 a.m., I began so see more and more phosphorescence in the water. This and the stars are my favorite parts of a night passage. The brilliance in the water is mesmerizing. It is as though Neptune himself is down there tossing handfuls of stars up to the surface each time the boat throws a bow wake. They tumble in a sparkling mass, spreading like the tails of comets. I’m tethered into the cockpit, but I can’t get enough of this enchanting display of God’s wonder.   I lean out of the cockpit watching as in a dazed trance. I’m thinking this is like a mirror image of the sparkling stars in the Heavens. I have chills. It is so thrilling to me that I let Frank sleep extra long so that I can stay up for the late show. I don’t want to miss a minute of this miracle of the sea. In my mind, this is God’s gift of a moonless night and a sight that we haven’t enjoyed since leaving the South Pacific. Eventually around 3:30 a.m., I gave in to the fatigue and regrettably woke Frank for his turn at watch. 

Frank woke me at nearly 7:45. No real wind but we expected that. We did sail for a short while and have been motor sailing for 15 hours now. There’s an approaching storm in the forecast and if we keep up the current speed we should beat it. With daylight came visibility and with visibility came the absurdly bundled “blobs” of crudely constructed fishing buoys. They looked like a tangled mess floating out here 100 or so miles from shore. Man would that mess up our prop if we had run over one of those nasties. God only knows how many we missed in the night. 
This is one of the the fishing blobs we saw at dawn.

Providence is getting us through. We continued to spot the odd blobs as the storm ahead began to brew bringing on a 20+ knot headwind and bringing the following seas around to slam straight at us. Every now and then we would get a big angry crash over the bow. Thank goodness there was no thunder boom and no lightning, just a lot of wind and gray sky. We rode the bull for about 5 hours praying for the rain to come and wash our salty decks. Some folks may think we’re crazy because we enjoy these rides. The sails were up on a close reach (about 45 degrees), with the motor giving us forward momentum. This to us is exhilarating and we think Destiny kind of likes it too. It’s as though she is racing to reach the next cresting wave to remind us we are still alive and loving this life. It’s literally like a surfer paddling out into the big waves, ducking under the breaks knowing when he reaches his sweet place, he will turn and ride. This is the gift of the effort. Destiny will get her turn to ride when we leave the Cape Verdes in December. 

Our view of Lanzarote through the gray

End of this story...we made it in, after motoring around to find a safe spot to anchor in Francesca Bay between Isla Graciosa and Lanzarote.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oct 1 – 8, 2018 Final days in Agadir Morocco

(photos wont upload until we get better internet)
Back in Agadir, Frank set about diagnosing the problem that was causing our engine to stall and quit on us. He spent an entire day mostly on his stomach waist to head deep in the engine compartment dismantling the fuel filter housing. Island Packet does not make these jobs easy. The thing was coated with dirty fuel gunk. He cleaned out everything he could access and then went to work on the generator fuel filter housing just in case. Two days, my man worked like a slave getting cut and bruised in numerous places on his body in the process. As usual, I’m running around trying to catch the blood that’s dripping off him and cleaning it off sheets and whatnot. He finally cut up a tube sock to wear on his arm and elbow as a bandage because nothing else seems to work. Not much could be done about the two gashes on top of his head, that spotted the pillowcases crimson, but to keep it covered with a hat and copious amount of Neosporin. He was so sore and cramped up he took to snacking on Aleve instead of cookies for a while. Poor guy!

Our next hurdle was locating propane. Our tanks were nearly empty and had been since entering Spain last year. Obviously there will be no cooking without propane. We‘ve been eating out for the most part and making food that can either be prepared by boiling water in the electric kettle, microwaved or eaten raw (salad, sandwiches, etc).  There was no propane to be found in any of our previous ports in Spain. They use exchangeable camping gas canisters. We have been told there is none to be found in the Canaries either. Fortunately an American family here in the marina pointed us to a station that sells propane that must be self-filled by hand. Well this is a first. We’ve done it with diesel in Tonga and Indonesia but not propane. The man, Erik, went with Frank to show him the ropes while I went in search of prescription refills, and took care of other chores aboard. The job took Frank about 2 hours but our tanks are both nearly full so we wont have to worry about crossing to the Caribbean with out cooking. The American guy said he videoed the process and put it on the web. Their yacht is named Kandu. I think the link is (its written all over their boat), if any sailors are reading this and want the info.
locals always coming to the marina for a day out.

The locals love to stand in this corner of the marina to get their photos and look at fish in the water
We have taken several long walks into the town and along the bustling waterfront. The main part of town is not close which is fine with us because we enjoy the long walks. We didn’t hang out on the beach. We just didn’t fit in. I don’t have a caftan and leggings appropriate to blend in with the local beachcomber threads of the Muslim ladies. Its fascinating people watching as so many women dressed in layers, heads covered, stroll along the beach with fabric billowing behind and around them in the ocean breeze. Some were even kicking around a soccer ball. Can you imagine? The men of course have no worries, running around shirtless in their trendy trunks. Again, we didn’t snap photos because it would have been very rude to do so.
fog in the breakwater entrance (from Destiny, bow-facing)

foggy days (from the stern)
Several of our days have been socked in with fog but we did manage to walk to the Sunday Market (the Suq which is actually open every day) on the other side of town for wonderfully fresh fruits and vegetables – and the olives that are amazing here. Unfortunately, as fresh as everything is, it is just as dirty. The gorgeous head of lettuce I bought was full of sand and black dirt. An hour of shopping is generally followed by an hour of washing the food before putting it into the galley. 
Frank's reward  - Moroccan beer) for letting me drag him around shopping. Love these olives!

One really big downside to Agadir for me personally is the smell coming from the fish market and the open fire grills along the adjacent port where they cook the fish all day into the night. The “offal” smell permeates not just the air, but our hair and clothing as well. It really is disgusting and pungent when the breeze is coming from that direction. I’ve begun to call Agadir: “Stinkadir”, and find myself constantly parading around the inside of the boat spraying air freshener.  A French yacht came in next to us with a little dog that yaps and barks a high-pitched incessant screech that rips right through us day and night. Everything sets this poor little dog off.  A pair of German Shepherds enjoy sauntering by on the dock to taunt him. When he gets completely riled they then curl up to settle down on the pier just aft of the French boat, sending the little yapper into a crazed frenzy for hours on end. I think Frank wants to feed him some of our diesel gunk.

We have enjoyed our time here and have found two really great restaurants on the waterfront: Pure Passion (very gourmand), and Mama Caterina (excellent homemade Italian food by a family who emigrated here from Torino).  We are, however, anxious to get moving. On the 3rd, Frank booked Customs to check us out at 8 AM the next morning and sent me up to the Marina office to settle our bill while he readied the boat. After I finished paying, he walked up to the office to tell me we should stick around for a while because he just checked the forecast to find there is absolutely no wind after all and we don’t want to motor for two days. Next Thursday (the 11th) promises great wind so we will stick around for another week. Oh boy.

I’m bored and ready to go. I’ve read four books while Frank putters around with Blue Jobs. I decided to clean our showerheads because the water we had filled up with in Sant Carles had a lot of lime or some kind of mineral substance in it that clogs the faucets and showerheads causing them to spray every which way. We learned a neat little trick from the RayMarine guy in Gibraltar, which is to soak our speed log paddle wheel in Efferdent to clean it off. I thought this might work on the showerheads and faucets. I soaked away, hoping this was better than using vinegar, the normal remedy. I think it worked but one of the showerheads broke when Frank was trying to reattach it. We spent one day trying to source a new one. That was a new adventure on the local bus #98. We looked real out of place and smelled better than most of the other riders! But it got us exactly where we needed to be on the other side of town.  We spent another day cleaning out all of the fresh water hoses.  Yes, we do live an exciting life but these things help us to do that.

Today is Monday Frank had another very early look at the weather and announced that the promised wind for Thursday has now completely disappeared off the forecast. There will be no sailing wind to the Canaries for at least another week. I urged him to let us just go. At 8 AM he went to Customs to begin the checkout process. We know there is a Front headed to the Canaries but if we don’t leave today we will be stuck again for several. We think we can get in before the bad weather hits. By 10:00 we were squared away with the marina and the officials. Here we go – 220 miles into the wind!

Monday, October 8, 2018

September 30, 2018 – Last Day in Marrakech and Return to Agadir

Before leaving Marrakech we had time to visit the Dar Si Said, the Museum of Moroccan Arts that housed artisan textiles and crafts, including the oldest object in Marrakech a chest dating back to around 1002 AD. We spent a few hours here meandering through the various halls of this old mansion admiring tools, arms, woodworks, jewelry, clothing, rugs and children’s play implements. As always, we cant get enough of the history. The suq and Djemaa el-Fna were so jammed with tourists that we could hardly get through. Saturday was just as bad and this is why I don’t have photos of the “circus” that plays out here. It was rowdy and nearly unbearable. The difference in weekdays crowds to weekends it astounding, and I would caution anyone visiting Marrakech to avoid Sat/Sun here. The pickpockets and thieves are on the move. We were fine, but ready to leave now.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a quiet street away from the crowded Medina before finally bidding farewell to cozy Riad dar Sheba and dear sweet Kareem who had been so helpful to us.  He arranged our taxi this time, saving us a small fortune. Arriving at the bus station we boarded a very crowded but comfy bus for the 3-½ hour ride back to Agadir.

A knight's clothing
Gorgeous very old carpets 
our favorite rug tells stories...

Barb and Kareem

Sunday, October 7, 2018

September 28 & 29, 2018 – Marrakech Morocco Days 2 & 3

I’m a bit messed up on my days. The previous blog was a merging of Thursday and Friday. It doesn’t really matter, the essence is all there and so this is more merging of Friday breakfast and then Saturday. Any Gemini can follow this – right?
Friday (and each subsequent morning) morning we had gone down for breakfast in the courtyard where to Frank’s delight, we were served loads of BREADS. At least that is what my mind saw. First we were served some type of bubbly little crepe that was more like a very flat pancake with a firmness that might indicate there was some corn flour or masa in it. I couldn’t tell, but ate it anyway with a drizzle of honey from a platter that also contained a variety of jams, marmalades and some other type of fruit compote. Next came a basket of slices of an entire baguette, a plate of some type of biscuit and also a couple of pain du chocolat. (Chocolate croissant to Texans).  Thankfully, we were also given some diced melon, fresh yogurt and a boiled egg.  While Frank was rolling around in pastry Heaven I was really enjoying the delicious French Moroccan coffee. I did manage to snap a photo of part of our breakfast but it felt rude, so I didn’t capture everything as it was served in waves.  
first round of breakfast before the coffee was even served
 We then went for a stroll to the suq to shop for what I call Turkish towels for the boat. I also wanted to return to the Mellah to buy some of the aromatic spices from there rather than from the main suq. The main suq was a bit frenzied for our taste, with vendors constantly beckoning, motorbikes buzzing up from behind us in the narrow passageways nearly running us down and the flies that gathered in cloudy masses around the pastry and spice stalls. I remarked to Frank that I’d rather buy the pure spice, not the ones containing the additional flavor of motorbike fumes, fly larvae and sweaty palm essence from the guy hand-scooping the products. Yep, that’s no exaggeration. So, we found our way to the wonderful little “Herboristerie Caravanserail” Chez Reda. In short, a young man named Reda ran this very clean and delightful spice market within a larger stall in the Mellah. I would recommend him to anyone shopping for fresh herbs and spices in Marrakech. He even mixed up his special version of Moroccan coffee beans for us. I also picked up some specially ordered goods for my friend Laura Pitt (Sabbatical III). We left very happy and then dove back into the main suq to source those towels. My shoppers ADD was really on overdrive in the main suq, so much that I could not focus on any one thing but Frank managed to channel me back from time to time. Mission accomplished, good prices negotiated, we returned to the riad to deposit our bounty with time to spare before our 1 PM Hammam appointment.  It had felt good to walk off that 4,000-caloried breakfast.  

Coming out of the Mellah

main suq
main suq

sampling of hand made shoes 

The Heritage Spa was one of those highly recommended Hammams that was also referred to us by our riad. We were scheduled for a 2 ½ hour couples “Heritage Romance” package that included a 45 minute Hammam Detox (definitely need that!), a 1 hour massage followed by a facial for me and a foot massage for Frank. (I can just hear my friend Jerilyn guffawing and knee slapping over that!) I normally wouldn’t go into detail about something like this but for those who haven’t had a Hammam experience this is good information. My only previous had been in Kas, Turkey a few years ago – a girl’s day with sailing friends Laura and Jane. Our Turkish hammam was a bit different and a little cozier. 
For the Moroccan experience, Frank and I started out relaxing in the comfy salon where we were served tea while a hostess described our service then asked us to choose our oils, scents and soap preferences. Following that we were moved to a dressing room where we stripped except for a little something to cover the nether regions and donned fluffy robes and white slippers and then directed to a dark, blue tiled room where we removed our robes and were told to each climb up onto a wet, very hot and very uncomfortable flat tiled L-shaped surface, feet touching from right angles. Frank got there first and promptly let out a WHOOP!, then jumped down, saying, “That’s HOT!” the two attendants sort of giggled but sprayed cooling water over the tiles until we could lie down without leaving scorched bits of skin stuck to the surface. Next we were lathered up with Argan oil mixed with another wonderful smelling component then scrubbed from head to toe with rough mitts. I was reminded of scaling a fish. When the first layer of skin was completely scrubbed off our fronts, we were unceremoniously flipped over to have the backsides removed. Painful indeed but we were told that we were being detoxed and our skin made fresh. Next came the power wash on both sides, flip flop again, that felt like sandblasting, before we were slathered in black gunk, flip flop again and left with a bottle of water each, lying on our backs to sweat. We lay there for a very long time until I literally thought I would pass out from the heat. I asked Frank if he was alive, and he said, “I think so. I wonder why the ceiling has that dome shape”.  Was he going into delirium? I peered up and said that maybe it catches the heat and cycles it back down.  We were beginning to think they had forgotten us.  So far, we were struggling to find the romance in this. After another long while, I slithered down to the floor to try to pry the door open but it was very slippery. Eventually it came ajar enough that cool air began to seep into the room. When we both seriously thought our poor bodies could take no more of the heat and the painful slab, the door opened and a new assault began as the black gunk was power scrubbed off , our hair washed and we were rinsed like fish in the market. Finally, we were wrapped in the fluffy robes and led into a small lounge area laid with big cushions and pillows along the floor, and then served HOT Moroccan mint tea and sweets. We drank the tea, ate the sweets and then asked for water. After a short rest we were led away separately for our massages and subsequent treatments. Both of us reported back to each other afterward that those massages were sheer bliss, and not just because they followed the torture treatment of the hammam. I would return to this spa just for the massage in a heartbeat. It was better than any I’ve had in years. Frank said the same about his and also his foot massage. My facial was so relaxing I nearly fell asleep. The kicker to all of this is that the entire package for both of us cost 1700 DH. That’s $179.00!

We were so relaxed after the Hammam experience that we were really grateful we had booked dinner at the riad that night. We were the only guests for dinner. Because there is no restaurant here booking a day in advance is required. It felt so nice to enjoy a beautifully prepared meal in a quiet and lovely setting. We had no idea what was for dinner and were very pleased to be served a homemade chicken tagine accompanied by perfectly cooked fresh mixed vegetables, followed by a delicious homemade dessert that I cannot identify and of course, Moroccan mint tea.

Sept 27 – 30, 2018 – Marrakech, Morocco – Day 1

Arriving into the CTM bus station at Marrakech was a no-drama ordeal until we walked outside the lobby doors where the full frontal assault began with the Taxi drivers. Against all that we knew, we got hustled. It’s tough really, because we must’ve been wearing great big “I am a foreigner, probably a rich American, please take advantage of me” signs that had been tattooed on our foreheads while we dozed on the bus. Still it was cheaper than NYC.
Frank queuing to buy our return bus ticket
We chose to stay in a Riad rather than a hotel. A Riad is a large private home, often a former mansion, situated within the old city or Medina with a large center courtyard into which all of the rooms and windows face. Originally the courtyard would have been a garden with a fountain but most have been converted to guesthouses with a small pool and seating area in the courtyard area. Riad dar Sheba was very homey and we immediately felt as though we had stepped into a quiet little paradise far away from the city.  We were greeted by Kareem (Karim?), and then invited to sit in the pillow-laden salon to relax and enjoy a Moroccan mint tea and some biscuits (cookies). He gave us a map of the city and explained some things about what to expect and how to get around. We requested of him to arrange two things: a private walking tour and a couples' treatment at a local Hammam. He then went off to make arrangements while we got settled into our room.
this is only part of our room at the riad
The Riad is literally steps away from the large Koutoubia mosque and the Djemaa El-Fna that is the main square of Marrakech. This massive square plays host to a variety of what we call “buskers”; live acts with people, snakes, monkeys, dancers, singers musicians, you name it. It is lined with large fruit stalls where drinks are made fresh while you wait. One center area converts to a multi-restaurant venue at night. Around the periphery are multi-storied restaurants with rooftop terraces and amid all of this are the entrances to the souks/suqs where alleyways will lead you on a meandering path to a shopping experience even bigger than the Turkish markets. You can shop for anything here locally/hand-made or made in China, we could never tell but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.  Among the myriad shops are cafes offering Tagines, couscous dishes, French pastries... You can eat well here on any budget.
A market stall with items made from old tires

Every day we were approached by some random guy telling us we must hurry and follow him, saying; “the Berbers are in town for two hours only” or “Come, come, this way, this way is a short cut to the auction that is about to begin” …“The Berbers are here with carpets and will soon be leaving”.  Whatever line you are fed, don’t fall for it. You will be taken on a wild goose chase, “just around this short cut here” that meanders forever and leads you to the same carpet store that is on all of the tour routes where you will be served tea and planted for a show and tell of expensive carpets that lasts for nearly an hour.
Mohammad and Barbara before entering the Bahia Palace
Mohammad explaining the harem to Frank
Our private tour was scheduled for the very afternoon we arrived. Our guide, Mohammad walked us through the highlights of the Medina, starting at the Koutoubia mosque, which tourists may not enter but a walk-by was enough for us, giving us its history of course. He led us through the market, explaining how to “negotiate” if we wish to buy something, and to the Mellah (the Jewish Quarter), which was far cleaner and better kept than the main - I suppose - Muslim area of the Suq. Negotiating is all part of the experience and is expected. We visited the Bahia Palace where he gave us a private tour, detailing the story behind it’s origin and the owner who had several wives and concubines within the massive estate including a school for his hundreds of children, all tucked into separate Dars and Riads that were guarded by Eunuchs because he didn’t want temptation to be an issue. He also employed blind musicians for the same reason. What a guy!  
intricate designs in Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace passage from one riad to another

Ceiling of the room in the chamber of the "other wives"

Ceiling center in Wife #1's room

Bahia Palace

Frank in Bahia Palace's "Man cave"

Then we learned about the popular Argan Oil and were taken to an “official” factory shop where we sampled so many products our heads began to spin. Of course we bought an entire bag full. Next on the tour was a carpet show room where we saw some beautifully crafted tribal pieces from all over Morocco which was very interesting in that each area of the country and tribe makes a product quite different from the next and using materials such as camel hair, wool, cotton fibers and so on.  Eventually our 3 hour tour had stretched to 4 hours so we called it a day and bid Mohammad farewell as we hustled back to the Riad to shower and rest before heading back out to dinner.

Walking back into the Suq area, we located a wonderful rooftop restaurant, Café Arabe’, a perfect venue to enjoy our first Marrakech sunset. The seating in the lounge area was arranged amid comfy white cushions, backed with lots of pillows surrounded by flowing white curtains. It was gorgeous and so was the dynamic sunset. Frank happily sipped his beer (I took a cute photo of him but he wont let me post photos anymore of him drinking beer), while I tried to catch the storm rolling in on the setting sun. As soon as our dinner arrived, the storm had reached us and waiters quickly swept us and our food up, hastening us downstairs to the internal dining room where laughing, wet patrons were cramming themselves into the pillow laden sofas to settle in for dinner and a storm. There is a gorgeous video that is on my Facebook page. I can't seem to get videos to post on our blog.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

September 25 - 27, 2018 Agadir Morocco

Pictures for this blog coming a few days later when we get back to the laptop.
We arrived safe and sound into Agadir Marina around 4:45 P.M. as we nosed into the entrance a very rambunctious group of young men dove into the water racing to try to swim across our bow to the other side. We weren’t going for it. Frank idled Destiny until they got the hint and switched to dog-paddling in place about 10 feet from the front quarter. As soon as he started up again, they went for it for all they were worth, laughing and waving hello as they passed us to the outer jetty.

Frank had been hailing the marina for quite a while but getting no response so he decided just to enter knowing someone would come out to direct us. Sure enough, a young man appeared waving and pointing to a pontoon. He helped secure our docklines and told us to sit tight, Customs officials were coming soon. Before Frank could enjoy his first arrival beer two friendly officials arrived, first asking us if we had anything to declare; weapons, animals, drones. Drones cannot be brought into the country and will be confiscated but returned on your departure. This is the first that we have been asked that question. If you have no weapons they give you one...ha ha, just kidding. They did not board to inspect the boat, rather they took Frank to the office for check-in. They told me to stay onboard...Captain Only. It was so easy. They kept our passports for a few hours, probably checking to see if we voted Democrat or Republican, and meanwhile sent Frank back to the boat.

First impressions of Agadir: beautiful golden colored beach, clean marina surrounded by upscale shops and restaurants, modern, friendly people, very French, safe. The predominant languages are Moroccan Arabic and French. 

The landscape is very similar to Baja California, Turkey or Greece in that it is rocky and barren but interspersed with olive trees that thrive in this environment. Morocco is 99% Muslim. Many in Agadir are a bit more modern like those we see in America but then it seems the older women are the more traditionally dressed. We’ve only seen one wearing full burka with just eye slits. The restaurants and cafes within the well guarded marina complex do not serve alcohol. Our first night out, Frank tried to order a beer with dinner, and the waiter gushed, almost embarrassedly, “We do not serve alcohol it is against the law!” Everyone was drinking tea, Coke or water. We went with water. We were so exhausted that we could hardly stay awake to finish our tagine.

We slept so well and awoke ready to explore. We walked a fair bit to the CTM bus substation to purchase bus tickets to Marrakech and then headed for the Suq. It was another mile or so but being out walking was wonderful after being cooped up on the passage. While walking we strolled Ave. President Kennedy. That was unexpected. The Suq is the big market place not at all dissimilar to those in Turkey. We were in Heaven. The fresh foods, teas, olives, spices, nuts, baked goods were abundant. You can buy anything and everything here, including housewares, furniture, decor, clothing, linens and of course the local made crafts. We only purchased some snacks and nuts to take on the bus ride. This was mostly recon to compare prices here to the Marrakech market. After that adventure, we went to Moroc Telecom to purchase wifi and were really surprised to find that 1 Gigabyte only costs 10 Dirhams which is roughly $1. We splurged and bought 10 Gigs.

For dinner we walked over to a complex called the fish market where hawkers lure you into their “restaurant”, which is simply a long table lined with benches leading out from a small counter filled with a variety of seafood on ice. A man was behind the counter, but the hawkers did the work. First thing, Frank asked if he could get a beer. “Yes, we have beer!” was the eager response. They brought out some small loaves of flat bread and some diced up tomatoes and onion for us to begin and then showed us a large platter of fresh seafood from which we thought we were picking what we wanted to order. There were lobster, shrimp, 4 or 5 kinds of fish, calamari. We picked one lobster and one fish but they brought us the entire plate fully cooked of all the fish, 2 lobsters, the calamari and the shrimp. I think they sucker punched us. Of course there was no way we could eat it all and although we protested that we didn’t order the whole platter, they suddenly could no longer speak English shaking their heads, ignoring our pleas. Better to go along and not get arrested or something worse, so we smiled and thanked them as we tackled the mass. It sure was good and fresh, all grilled except a couple fried pieces. Frank eventually got his beer. It was very discreetly slipped to him in a small glass, completely wrapped in a paper napkin, obscuring the contents completely. Ok, now we know it can be done. We had no idea what we were spending and wondered if we had enough cash to cover it. The bill came to exactly 888 dh.
One aspect that we’ve noticed is conspicuously missing are the many mosques such as we saw in Turkey and Indonesia. We aren’t awakened by surround sound and competing mullahs announcing morning prayer, or the other 4 prayer times of the day. We heard the big mosque gearing up for the midday prayer while about walking but no one whipped out a rug or dropped to their knees. Perhaps because this is a seaside tourist city they are more relaxed and we will experience more of that in Marrakech. We shall see.

Right now we are on a very nice coach bus on the road to Marrakech. In my mind I’m thrown back to the song about the Marrakesh Express. But we’re not on a train. The landscape is exactly what we anticipated, dry and brown with occasional lush green areas of crops and tree farms that are irrigated. The roads are nice and well maintained. From time to time we spy a lone elongated, flat top dwelling and what we think are villages with walls. We just hit a large rest stop that serves delicious looking pastries and cooked meals. Everyone is piling out, headed for the counter. Low and behold there is a small Starbucks kiosk to where most of the women hastened.

More later after we get into the Marrakech groove.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September 22 - 25, 2018 Gibraltar to Agadir

Queensway Quay took care of our Customs paperwork in Gibraltar. Documentation was was handed to us when we settled the bill at the marina. The first stop we made on the way out was the duty free fuel dock were we took on 450 liters (Baja filtered this time). Although the tank holds much more that’s all we needed to top up. We finished refueling around 3:30 but didn’t want to leave until 4:30, so we fiddled around at the fuel dock, cleaning up spilled diesel and finding time wasting chores to do before casting off.
The Rock of Gibraltar shrouded in clouds as we left

Almost across the Strait, and closer to Morocco's northern coast (N. Africa)

Right on time we aimed the bow for the Straight and immediately a large pod of dolphins joined the foray, bringing on the party as they escorted us out of and across the bay, shooting the bow wake and dancing high into the air. They stayed with us for hours, making us feel as though they brought good fortune to us on our little passage.

Many yachts hug the Spanish coast and then shoot across farther along, but Frank wanted to get across to the African side and out to the point, past the high commercial traffic zone before dark. Although we had great wind astern and had caught the flow of the outgoing tide just right, he augmented that with the iron jib and we briskly motor-sailed across among mountains of container ships, freighters and massive ferries that resembled small cruise ships. It was a beautifully executed ballet. Three cheers to the Captain! He had planned this so well it felt like a cakewalk. After passing the midpoint, we encountered a slight countercurrent but nothing to get excited about. All the while, a Royal Navy warship patrolled the international boundary between the two continents sending warnings and alerts to potential territorial waters violators. We arrived at the head and made our left turn into the Atlantic with a few breaths of daylight to spare. Again, I turned to Frank and praised his fastidious planning.

the British war ship

Passage Notes:

Saturday, 9/22/18
The first night out was nearly sheer bliss. We had prepared for a very rough ride but instead enjoyed a comfortable downwind sail for nearly 26 hours with little turbulence. Nonetheless we both only snacked lightly because a full stomach can become our worst enemy if the ride gets rough. We settled into 4-hour daytime watches and then switched to 3-hour shifts at night. We were making good time and hitting speeds of 8 & sometimes 9 knots which is good for our gal. The moon was nearly full and the night was clear and lovely. This is what we live for.

Sunday, 9/23/18
The wind began to lighten around 3:00 AM, while Frank was on watch. When I came up, we had slowed to about 5 knots. He really didn’t want to use the engine if at all possible but by 6:30, we had dropped to 3.9 boat speed, and just 4.0 SOG. The sails were flogging and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I cranked up the engine, furled in the genoa, shortened the main and brought out the staysail for stability. The big gentle rollers we had been surfing were beginning to get uncomfortable and I wanted Frank to continue sleeping and this helped.
The wind refused to keep the promise of a great 3-day downwind sail for us. We stayed offshore to try to catch and keep it, but also to avoid the dangers of the many unlit and poorly marked fishing nets we’d been warned about along the coastline that are reportedly laid as far out as 15 miles offshore. Too many yachts have gotten tangled up in them for us not to heed the warnings. Additionally, there are small, unmarked fishing boats that don’t show up on AIS or radar. 
Sunday passed uneventfully under a brilliant blue sky and calm seas...wind pathetically dropped to under 6 knots sometimes gusting to 9-ish. By evening, the temperature dropped dramatically and the moon rose full and majestic giving us a gorgeously backlit night. As night wore on, however, a dense fog set in, obscuring the moon along with our visibility drenching us and the inside of the boat in heavy moisture. Our friends on Sabbatical III had already ventured to the Canaries a month or so ago and had mentioned the temperature drop, saying they just could not get warm at night. We can certainly second that and add that the moisture is deeply penetrating causing us to feel we were sitting in wet diapers all night long. The windshield was so wet and fogged up we would have to frequently unzip the clears (strataglas windows), and lean out to get a peek into the foggy nothingness in case those unlit fishing boats were bobbing around.

Monday, 9/24/18
I could pretty much say “ditto” to yesterday except that by early evening we were able to turn off the motor. We enjoyed a nice 20-ish knots of true wind on the beam, with large and easy following seas. We had another few hours of “Oh yea, this is why we do this” sailing. We didn’t break into song or dance. I actually leaned over to Frank and whispered, “I’m afraid to exhale”. He laughed and told me to just enjoy it and quit always waiting for the other shoe to drop. At the risk of sounding Cliché, I must’ve exhaled because the shoe dropped as did the wind, the temp and visibility. Damnation! This night was colder than before and the fog and damp so thick I muttered and complained to myself all through my watches. My rear end was sore, damp and cramped. My hands felt raw from dickering with the sheets and lines. During night watches I  frequently get up and try to do squats or some kind of bending routine to shake off the sleep and cobwebs. This night I was just miserable. To make things worse, some complete idiot was singing silly little, nasty songs over the VHF, and calling himself “Baby Monkey”. From time to time, another voice would break in to shout, “Shut the bloody hell up Baby Monkey!”  Well, this just egged Baby Monkey on and he got more degenerate by the minute. I thought if my watch didn’t end soon I would slowly go stark raving mad. Somehow, Frank always seems nonplussed in these situations. I tried to channel my inner Frank, but he’s much more Zen than I. Finally, at the end of my watch Baby Monkey must’ve gone out of range because I no longer heard him, and happily turned the watch over to Frank. I went down below to fix something warm to drink and a snack before hitting the sack. Then I heard Frank talking. I popped my head up to see what he wanted but he was speaking into the VHF asking someone what were his intentions. He said we nearly collided with a large fishing vessel that appeared out of the fog and he was trying to figure out who would do what. Then suddenly Destiny began to loop in a tight circle. The autopilot had just turned off. Frank was trying to secure the helm and couldn’t find the big boat in the dense fog, so I stayed up and spotted for him. What terrible timing! We located the vessel behind us, then Frank told me to run down to the Nav desk and reset the instruments. Meanwhile Frank had memorized the compass heading and was attempting to put us back in the right direction but with no way to see where we actually were. Thank God the reset worked and we got the autopilot back. We thought it was extremely odd and coincidental that when we bore close to the other vessel our instruments went crazy and then quit. We got out of there as quickly as we dared both feeling slightly unnerved but I was so tired I stumbled to the bed and was immediately out with a prayer still on my lips for the Good Lord to get us safely through this passage.

Tuesday, 9/25/18
We survived the night but were wetter than ever. Everything is soggy. Eventually the marine haze began to lift and we have been hanging bedding and clothing out to dry in the hot sun. Now we see fishing nets and boats as we near Agadir. We are so relieved to finally be close and not to be approaching this place by night. The wind came up once again allowing us to turn off the engine for a while. Unfortunately, after just a few hours the wind began to wane and the speed dropped to 4.5 SOG. We are only an hour out of Agadir so Frank cranked on the engine but it sputtered and died. Come on! What now!? He told me to turn off the key and try it again while he looked around in the engine room. We tried to crank it again but nothing this time. Really. Starter battery maybe? He turned on the generator and the engine choked to life. Now we are cruising on a wing and a prayer hoping to make it into the marina without the engine going out again. It’s 3:50 pm. We are both holding our breath.

Approaching Agadir - finally blue skies.

In our berth at Marina Agadir

Marina Agadir

4:45 PM we eased into the breakwater of Capitainerie du Port de Plaisance Agadir. Now I can truly say that we never, in a million years, thought we would sail to Morocco. We are kissing Destiny and thanking God and those carefree dolphins who tossed a bit of fairy dust on Destiny as they frolicked in her bow wake. Morocco 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September 11 - 20, 2018 Gibraltar

 I’m posting this from A café  where I don’t have access to our photos. Come back a little later and hopefully I will be able to have uploaded some...

No luck with the predicted downwind sail to Gibraltar, and yet we were grateful for an easy day. About 4 hours into the journey our engine began struggling not to stall and straining as though it could hardly breathe. I asked Frank to check the filter, because we didn’t want the engine to quit on us as we had just been through this a few days ago. He pulled the filter to find it completely gunked up after only about 40 engine hours. Uh oh! I Now we know without a doubt we got bad fuel in Sardegna when we topped up last season. We normally use the Baja filter but did not remember using it that time. I won’t get into what a colossal mistake that was. We get complacent. Thank goodness Frank brought back a few extra Racor filters from Texas. New filter in and we were good to go. 

With that eating at our insides we pushed the negative thoughts away as we came within sight of the Rock. The entire mass is much larger than what we’ve seen in pictures. Impressive and looming; it’s many faces revealed as we approached. We made several failed attempts to get a selfie with the famous peak at our backs, but the seas were pitching us so wildly, we dared not go out on deck. So we tried from inside the cockpit. 

This is another milestone, another “Wow” moment for us to have “Sailed to Gibraltar” on our own vessel. And what happened the very minute we made the turn into the massive bay? Massive winds darn near knocked us sideways, making entry into Queensway Quay a bit of a challenge. I guess we should have prayed to the god Eurus for that Easterly.

We were fortunate to get into Queensway - thank you Ute and Hans (Taimada) for the recommendation. It is small and very protected. Surrounded by lovely townhomes and condos on all sides, with secured floating pontoons and local restaurants - no bars - lining the quay, we felt the stress slide right off. The manager originally gave us three days but extended our stay to roughy 10. We needed every bit of that to sort things out before we go to sea from here. The alternative was Marina Bay/Ocean Village, where the docks are fixed concrete wharfs which would be a major challenge for us at low and high tides because the difference is about 1.6 meters.
Queensway Quay (Destiny at end on rt.) - note the formidable dock lines!

the dock we would have been moored to at Marina Bay almost at high tide

We have friends who came to Gibraltar but didn’t care for it. We have friends who came here and enjoyed it. We fell into the latter class. We were thrilled to hear and to speak English. We were very pleased to find Sheppards chandlery who employs the most skilled RayMarine tech we have yet to meet. He got our radar up and running in 5 hours. A record! We discovered Morrisons supermarket that has the largest supply of fresh prepared meals we’ve ever seen. We turned on the freezer and stocked it up. It was wonderful to shop without the translate App on my phone. Thanks to Gail from s/v D’ol Selene’s blogs we were able to source and stock up on Easi-yo packets. We found real ground coffee that hadn’t been pulverized to a powder for the first time since Oz in 2012. Frank was able to stock up on his favorite Scotch and to buy Cuban cigars. Then we became tourists.

We toured the Rock, inside and out. Outside is a monkey habitat (where if not careful, the monkeys will steal you blind and jump onto your backs), a glass skywalk viewing platform onto which we could walk to take photos of the base and beach below, several viewpoints from various points on the Rock where you could see north Africa and Spain from various angles. There were platforms above the caves and defense tunnels. The cave has been turned into a concert or stage arena, and is lighted in varying LED colors set to music. The tunnels were dug by the British and filled with artillery and canons, etc., used as a very strategic defense fortification.  At the base of the ocean-facing side of the Rock, caves have been explored revealing Neanderthal ruins and artifacts that were discovered therein, that are displayed in the Gibraltar Museum. 

Looking at the British side of Gibraltar

View of the airport from the Rock. Across the runway is Spain

A canon facing Spain

Frank in the tunnels of the Rock beside a canon
We walked across the famous runway that separates Gibraltar from Spain. We got our Gibraltar stamp on our passports. We visited the Gibraltar Museum, we toured the Gibraltar Botanical Gardens. We visited Ocean Village and O’Reilly’s where, according to Paul and Glor on s/v Scallywag, you can get the best Steak and Guinness Pie (so true we’ve had it time and again). We know this town and the cruise ship schedule better than most. We even did a few things that I can’t mention or it will ruin the surprise for our  friend and crew member who will be joining us in Lanzarote.

Entering Gibraltar across the runway from Spain

Delicious steak and Guinness pie

beautiful park in the center of Gib

Walking across the runway back into Gibraltar from the Spain side

Gibraltar center

Leaving here on a sailboat is a scientific feat. Timing tides, wind and current correctly are paramount. We listened to a lot of sage advice. We have downloaded all applicable Apps and references and The Captain has studied them until he is feeling confident that our day and time of departure will be Saturday, September 22nd at approximately 4:30 PM. Now we sit back, read books, shop and pray.