Almerimar, Southern Spain - Dakar, Senegal
March 24th 2008
Our winter stay at Almerimar is nearly over, but not quite. This newsletter is being written early with the launching of our website. It’s only taken us four years to get around to doing a website, but it all now fits in very nicely with the completion of the book ‘On the nose’, so it was meant to be.
We overwintered here three years ago and had a fantastic time, and they say never go back because it won’t be the same, but we wanted a place to finish our book and get Yanina ready for the
There are some people who we know from last time, and a whole lot of new friends. We have picked up where we left off in the community here, held together by the cruisers' network on VHF channel 67, and Ladies' coffee morning. It’s still like a soap opera of characters with events from crime to Yanina and Maud
romance. Bob’s notebook is filling with ideas for more cartoons.
From September to December, Bob worked at completing the 150 odd cartoons for the book, Liz went to
Barcelona - Rob and Edward Scissorhands, market stall, jazz bar, wooden submarine, Sagrada Familia and Miro foundation
While Bob was drawing, Liz thought she would like to refurbish the woodwork inside Yanina, difficult as Bob’s favourite spot with the best light for working was in the saloon. Jim and Katie heard us discussing this and generously offered us the use of their boat Tenaya while they were away. So for nearly 2 months we lived on 2 boats, Bob drawing cartoons on a new Hallberg-Rassy while Liz sanded Yanina, who got the better deal then? The book was finished on December 29th, the woodwork sometime later in January, both excellent. Thanks to Mary on Kesho for bringing Liz some more Rustin's Danish oil from Gibraltar.
Leading up to Christmas we held a Christmas market and when word got around, we had a steady stream of visitors on Yanina wanting cards and cartoons. Our Christmas day at the Cafe Espigon was a great success, the sun shone and somehow sixty people managed to have turkey with all the trimmings, all cooked on different boats and ferried there in cars, amazing what a bunch of sailors can organise together. Each to their own area, and co-ordinated so well by Amelia, they also provided decorations, Santa, a disco and live music (us). On New Year's Eve we were invited to a bonfire on the beach and ended up drinking red wine and cooking sausages with people from
We are still planning our route at the moment as we think we have plenty of time, ha ha. We have most of the charts and have ordered pilot books. We are looking at cruising the Moroccan coast down to Agadir, then hopping to the Canaries, maybe Senegal then Cape Verdes and across to Brazil, or across to Antigua and Cuba, we will take two seasons in the Caribbean.
Day to day, we are working very hard on both the boat and the publishing empire, dotting from one to the other, so things are coming together slowly. We have had the rigging checked and sent the book to publishers, distributors and Yachting Monthly; we have ordered a new windlass gypsy, SSB receiver, installed a new mast winch, and set up the website. Things are beginning to happen on the publishing front, thanks to help from Rod Heikell who came here to Almerimar in October. Won’t tempt fate by saying more yet, but we’ll keep you posted in our ‘what’s new’ section.
There are regular regattas here and we joined Chris on Drike in January, and although Drike is a stately lady and we didn't stand a chance against the racing boats, we had a good sail in 15 knots of breeze. We have just started playing some music on another Chris’s 20 metre 1940’s RAF rescue launch. Banjo, concertina, trumpet, clarinet and guitar came together and we jammed at a bar, which was very successful. It has been a good winter weatherwise too, a very sunny January, a bit windy in February, now generally sunny again, although it can blow up fiercely for the odd day.
May 15th 2008
The weather is settling, most of the people who have overwintered have already set off, but we are still here, running a publishing house, having just sent the book 'On the nose' to be printed and published on August 1st. See what's new for all the details. We're not in any hurry to go as we don't want to cross the Atlantic till the trade winds are favourable in December. A more imminent deadline is the marina fees that double in June.
We've had a lot of fun in between the work. There's been a series of festivals in El Ejido involving horse displays, a medieval market, San Marco, and lots of drinking, the Spanish people know how to Fiesta.
Horse/dragon in riding spectacular A more traditional display
Sailors on the bus to El Ejido Flamenco at Isobel's bar In the street
Now we're getting Yanina ready for the Atlantic crossing and installing all the equipment and checking everything we think we will need to be at sea for long stretches. When we cast off in about three weeks time, our propsed itinerary looks something like this:
June, July, August From Southern Spain to
September Agadir to Canaries, poss.
October Canaries to
December - January
February Antigua, Barbuda,
Nevis, St Martin,
May – June
July Venezuela, boat out of water, travel inland, poss.
Ambitious, but we need to plan it all now, and the advantage of travelling like this is we can always change our minds if we want.
26th July 2008
It’s just over a month since we finally got away from Almerimar. We’d waited there to get the printer’s proofs of ‘On the nose’ and we still needed to be somewhere to receive the advance printed copy, so we decided to go to La Linea anchorage in Gibraltar bay, a favourite haunt of liveaboards waiting to transit the Straits.
Guardian Spirit was there from Almerimar, chilling out and checking how long the water in their tanks would last; Kiah and Big Sur were both waiting to go to
There was excitement when the anchor of a French boat, left unattended, started to drag onto the breakwater in a strong wind. Yachties always look out for each other and almost immediately, six dinghies with outboards appeared from the other yachts, including us, and impressively, an elderly German sailor rowed over and jumped on board. Within minutes he was co-ordinating a rescue, hauling up the anchor as three dinghies either side propelled the yacht forward to safety and to re-anchor. The owner, Christian, had spent 5 years building the yacht himself and was very grateful.
We eventually sailed into
Our weather forecast for crossing the Straits to
At the border,
We made our way through twisted alleys, past squatting Berber women in traditional straw hats with woollen ribs and pompoms selling bunches of herbs and onions; past workshops – a grinning elderly man with a shaggy beard and biblical robes up to his armpits in sawdust; a corner paint shop - the owner grinding pigments out of what looked like blocks of mouldy cheese; live chickens, then a boy plucking (hopefully) dead ones on a rotating wheel and laughing at our faces; tiny hovels; barbers; small shops with closed doors and drums on the wall, full of men. Stalls selling exquisite honeyed sweetmeats, sheep’s heads, and in another, dried blackened goats feet; tortoiseshells for sale in a herb shop; glimpses of an ancient medieval way of life.
Chefchaouen was a 2 hr bus ride (£1) climbing into the hills past a turquoise lake. Crops of corn and barley were being harvested with the odd small machine but mainly by hand, cut with a sickle and threshed with pitchforks. Goatherds were sitting in the sun or shade; the landscape was full of people, unlike
Chefchaouen is described as a hippy town, with it’s informal and colourful central square and rumours of nearby kif farms. The square is lined with cafes and restaurants and at 6-30pm it was packed with people watching a stage in the centre. Most restaurants do not serve alcohol and we went to the large hotel for a beer, where we met Agent no. 13, dressed in djellabah and pointed slippers, also quaffing a beer. He persuaded us to go to his family restaurant with a rooftop veranda overlooking the stage and the music, a decision we did not regret, and we ate there both nights. (Three courses of Moroccan food £6). At an unhurried breakfast next day in the square, we met David from
There were lots of rumours about Tangier, our next port of call to the west, and our last transit of the Straits. How much space was there for yachts – if any? What was the exclusion zone shown on the Navtex that surrounded it? The weather was not looking good for going west, so we decided to at least clear Yanina into
Yanina actually under sail after turning round on the El Jebba trip
We’d read the Moroccan pilot, and heard a lot of stories from yachties but we had yet to form an opinion about sailing in
We left Smir at 4am to catch the west flowing tide and finally get through the Straits of Gibraltar. The winds turned out to be West 4, not East as predicted, but despite wind against tide, we were still carried through and apart from patches of swirling water at times, we had no problems. A Moroccan patrol boat came to look at us but we waved and they waved back and sped away.
We could smell Tangier harbour before we got in. The call of the muezzin all over town sounded like a herd of melodious sheep, and as the Comarit ferry left, it joined in on bass. The fishing harbour had a huge fleet and there were just two small pontoons full of local boats. We rafted up on the end and there was only just enough room. Port policeman Rashid came to the boat and took our passports, issuing us with passes to see the town. ‘Anything to declare? No guns? You come in peace?’ he asked, reminding us of our German neighbours in Almerimar who didn’t speak English but mimed imaginary guns everytime we mentioned Morocco. Rashid was polite and helpful, but keen to know exactly how long we’d stay and what time we were going. We spent the afternoon in Tangier old town, an ancient Medina, fascinating but rough - scabby cats with 3 legs, beggars asleep on the pavement, and another Agent with bad teeth and remarkably good English ‘…never been to England mate….learned English off me mates ‘ere’. Then to the newer French town which is never as interesting. In the English church of St Andrew we met caretaker Mustapha (‘Yes please, thank you very much’) made famous in Michael Palin’s TV series and book ‘Sahara’. Back at the port for the night and in the early hours a soft voice whispered ‘Yanina’, but no one was there. Next morning a greasy fishing boat clunked Yanina, but only her anchor.
Despite a forecast of winds from the NE, we motored into light SouthWesterlies (will the wind always be ‘on the nose’) to Asilah, a tiny fishing harbour with just enough depth for Yanina to anchor in the middle. A police launch was with us before we’d even finished our ‘Tom Cunliffe’ technique of digging the anchor in, and he came on board and took copious details, including our mother’s maiden names, perhaps he’s a password breaker.
Police launch - total 1000 horse power
Asilah is a small resort where mainly Moroccan families come on holiday. Its
On the first day we had coffee, and read an English paper, in the Moroccan Medina that sits within a Portuguese fort, then walked through the newer French town down a boulevard lined with cannon balls, so perfect, it looked like a CAD image, overlaid onto the original field where sheep were still grazing. A wedding procession passed in the street - three bands from regions of
From Yanina we can watch the people on the beach and they occasionally swim up to us for a chat. The fishing boats are always coming and going. The range of tide is 3.6 metres and we very nearly touch bottom twice a day, but I think we’ll stay a while. There are no facilities for us, (water, electricity), but it’s free. The port police are very friendly and helpful. They turned out in one of their fast ribs, wearing matching red caps and restored order when too many overfriendly children were playing round Yanina; they let us use their washbasins to do some washing; and they don’t seem fazed that we are still here after a week, still the only yacht.
Turtle shells for sale
Posted in Tenerife 23rd September 2008
We did stay for the start of the Asilah festival. The medina was decorated with murals, and there was art and music from countries all over the world. Best by far was
We were the only yacht in the anchorage until Wiro and Esther turned up in Zwerver and joined us in our evening expeditions, dinghying over to the harbour wall, clambering over six fishing boats, and climbing a 10 metre ladder at low tide in the dark to enjoy the music. We left our dinghy in the care of Mohammed, a Moroccan Rasta with long dreadlocks. He was the guardian of the dive boat and spoke perfect English and several other languages; he had come back to his home town after years spent living in other countries. Along the harbour wall, fishermen were selling their catch in the dark, with only the street lights to see as they cleaned and gutted huge fish with dangerous looking knives. Further in, there were barrows of steamed snails for sale mmmm. People had stalls selling – anything, oranges, water, coral jewellery.
Wiro and Esther dance to the Mexican music
These contrasts are part of
Most days we dinghied over for coffee in the medina, visiting the internet cafe, (50p an hour, but many viruses); shopping in the atmospheric old market hall with fruit, meat and grocery stalls; lunch in a café outside, then maybe to the Atlantic beach with its rollers, one day to the hammam, or the new library, full of books, but empty of people. Then a stroll in the square in the violet light at dusk when Moroccan families come out and perch on every surface like roosting pigeons. The
A good overnight sail with just the right wind on the beam, to
From Rabat Kasbah we had a spectacular view of the estuary with its numerous breakwaters that still failed to stem the Atlantic swell up the river mouth but provided shelter for two large beaches. Crowds on the beaches, and crowded cemeteries nearby created similar patterns from this distance, this life and the next. The
The train was divided into compartments for six and we always asked for a window seat, next to the air-conditioning. The journeys were comfortable and fast with scenery to look at, and travelling companions who wanted to speak English with us so we found out a little about their lives. On one journey, the conductor cleared out everyone except us and ushered in three obviously wealthy Saudi young men, complete with white robes, tea towels, sunglasses and mobile phones. We were a bit quiet for a while, until a young Moroccan woman joined us and conversed with them in Arabic and us in English. Soon one of them went out to get water and sandwiches for everybody. It is traditional to share your food with fellow travellers on trains.
We found a hotel in Fes Villa Nouvelle and having been tipped off by some fellow yachties, took a taxi to the hills first to see the view of the famous old town and
We did enlist the services of two six year old guides to find the woodworking museum which was entertaining as they stopped every now and then to ask the way themselves. At the end, we managed to slip them some coins before they were rather unkindly booted out of the square by the proprietors of the museum – it’s tough on the streets.
Guide asks the way
Butcher in Fes Medina
From Fes we took the train to
From here we took a day trip to the Ourika valley in the Atlas mountains and climbed to a waterfall; resisting the guides wanting 200 dirhams, we just followed half of
Ourika Valley Bikewash Ourika Valley drinks cooler
A walk round the harbour to the village and there was a completely different climate as the wind dropped.
The winds dropped just as we had to move on and we motored overnight to southern
Posted 1st December 2008
We’re on La Gomera in the Canary islands, ready to start our long sailing passages to Senegal, (6 days approx), Cape Verdes, (4 days), and the Caribbean, (16 days). We have spent two months getting Yanina ready and promoting ‘On the nose’ in Las Galletas on Tenerife and we are a month later than we had planned but it doesn’t seem to matter, the dry season will be better established in Senegal and the only other restriction is the Caribbean hurricane season in June. We are having a sociable time in the company of other yachties waiting for the ‘right weather’ and
Bob went back to
Bob, Liz, Joan and Shirley at Guimar, the pyramids and the museum
Masca Teide National park replica reed boat at Guimar
We hauled out in the Los Cristianos boatyard, run by the local fisherman’s fedederation. The fishing harbour and boatyard there have almost been swallowed up by the advancing tourist develoment. Los Cristianos bay, a rare peaceful anchorage in the Canaries, used to be the home of the yachties departing across the
The haulout involved anti-fouling and replacing 3 seacocks as well as re-fitting others. Apart from that, the preparation list was long, as any yachtman contemplationg blue-water sailing will know. Check Check Check and Batten Everything Down, were two of the themes along with sail preparation for downwind sailing and heavy weather, stowing 1 months food and water, medical supplies, insurance, SSB radio and satellite communications, oh, and researching and planning the route. We want to go to
The book has become quite well known, thanks to the articles in Yachting Monthly. The RYA sea school in Las Galletas Clubsail are stocking it in their library and we have also had it accepted by Waterstones in the
We just need to finalise the communications and it will be time to go. We are getting to grips with our Iridium phone so we can download weather files, receive short emails, and use it as an emergency back up. If we get off this week then at Christmas we will probably be exploring the Gambia river, and at New Year we hope to be in the
Posted from Banul, Gambia,19th January 2009
At last we were ready, but the weather for the sail to
17th – 25th December, Canaries to
After a lumpy first two days, the winds and sea settled down and we flew the cruising chute during the day and poled out the genoa at night. We began to enjoy ocean sailing with flying fish, a whole seascape of dolphins as far as the eye could see, then one night everything as far as the horizon was illuminated by phosphorescence.
Seascape of dolphins
The wind picked up for our arrival in Dakar on Christmas day after 7 nights at sea and after avoiding two sunken yachts and anchoring, we enjoyed tinned chicken and stuffing, a miniature bottle of bubbly plus Christmas cake of course, then fell asleep.
25th – 31st December,
The ferry service to shore was ideal in the high winds. To hail it, you had to use a foghorn, and we laughed at the new experience of sharing a wet bumpy ride with the very black grinning ferryman, several yachties in tatty clothes, and an exotically dressed barmaid.
The CVD Yacht Club is laid back and friendly with a community feel. A little compound of buildings houses simple facilities for washing, cooking, showers, toilets; there is an engineering workshop and a sailmaker and you are able to do work on your own boat. There is a bar, patio and pleasant leafy courtyards, protected by a gate and a guard. Shanty shops and cafes outside provide food, and there is La Corvette restaurant along the beach. You could stay a while, and people do. Many of the boats in the anchorage have been left there by their owners but they soon become shabby with red dust and colonised by birds. There is a worrying feeling that if your boat breaks down here, you could be here a long time, fighting a losing battle.
The surroundings are less attractive. The road to
There are local people wandering around the courtyards offering their services. The price for everything is negotiable and you can probably do things yourself if you want but we were grateful for Aliou’s help with transporting water and diesel in the heat. Although you can get a bus, there is a confusion of services and routes and it was easier and cheap enough to take taxis into town. If you did not have the correct money you had to make sure the driver had enough change before you set off, then you had to make sure they had the change in their hand before you parted with your money. If you didn’t they just grinned and you were fair game. This seemed to be accepted practice, the excuse being the very real lack of small change. Clearing in, we took a taxi driver who made the most of charging us for each leg of the trip, but with him, we only had to pay 2,000 CFA in ‘presents’ to the Police instead of the customary 5,000, so we made a saving there and with his help the whole thing only took 2 hours.
There were mainly French sailors at the CVD and we enjoyed the company of Guillaume who wanted to practise his English, but we also met English sailors Marcus and Jess on a traditional Cornish Lugger that Marcus built himself, and Aussies Bruce and Cheryle. We all went looking for local Kora music venues in
One day we visited the fabric market at HLM, aiming to get some trousers and a top made for Liz, and this was an entertaining experience. When we started to negotiate with a seller carrying indigo dyed fabric on his head, we were instantly surrounded by several others, all carrying fabric on their heads, it looked like a Monty Python sketch. When we agreed a price (less than half), Lass appeared and took us to his brother’s workshop. The items were cut out and sewn in less than two hours and we were made very welcome at the workshops which were interesting to see. Lass even accompanied us while we went for some lunch, so desperate was he not to lose us. The next pair of trousers we bought were ready-made and we allowed Hassan to ‘pick us up’ and escort us to his factory where we bartered as a double act, and managed to clinch the deal at less than a third of the price. We have heard and read lots of stories of pressure and harassment but we found a lot of good humoured banter. The traders are experts at reading you and you do have to be on your guard all the time.
Finally we visited