Somewhere down there is Temptress!

It appears we’ve arrived in the Moroccan equivalent of Dubai – a marina set alongside a development of yet to be completed luxury flats, sound familiar? It is all a complete contrast to the run down, rather ramshackle buildings of the amazing Salé medina two minutes’ walk away. The marina though is well appointed except, for reasons the management won’t give, the wifi (this is a French speaking country so they cutely call it “whiffy” not why-fie) has limited functionality. Anything using https (ie email, banking, Facebook etc) or Google is inaccessible. It may be sometime before I can actually publish this blog!

The pontoon where we are moored is full of a different type of boat to those of Europe; long haulers forty feet or more equipped like us with solar panels, wind generators, biminis and a vast range of other appendages Temptress has not yet acquired. These aren’t boats heading to the Med for some winter sun but boats either just starting a circumnavigation or in the case of the half a dozen or so American boats, heading home via the Caribbean at the end of several years of world girdling. One or two boats are heading north to Europe but most are biding their time in Morocco until the ARC (a big trans-atlantic sailing rally) leaves the Canaries in November freeing up anchorages and marina berths in the islands.

Rabat Khasbah from the river

Everyone is extremely friendly. This is the first time we’ve really got to meet a lot of fellow cruisers, partly because we’ve mostly been at anchor and partly because everyone in Spain and Portugal was is a rush to get south before the chills of Autumn caught up with them. Invites to other boats for tea, coffee or something stronger are legion, any boat jobs take ages or get delayed to another day by chatting on the pontoon. We’ve met a lovely couple from Turkey whose sturdy steel Van der Stat (for land lubbers this is a well known Dutch boat builder) is called “Istanbul” and its port of registry also painted on the hull is Istanbul so it reads “Istanbul Istanbul” which we found amusing with its play on “New York, New York”. Then there is the one permanent marina resident next door to us, a young Belgian guy who is married to a Moroccan, though they are leaving for Gibraltar shortly as you can only keep a boat in Morocco for one year without paying import duty. He has been an extremely useful source of local knowledge like where the supermarkets are, which trams to get and more whilst in turn asking us lots of questions about life in Dubai which is somewhere he is thinking of moving to.

Traditional Morocco

Rabat and Salé are divided by the river Bouregreg, hence the name of the marina “Bouregreg”. The pronunciation of which has been impossible to pin down; the yachties call it Boo-reg-reg whilst the locals seem to say Bore-hrgh with the second syllable coming from somewhere in the back of their Arab-French speaking throats – we’ve tried but failed to reproduce the sound. Calling up for a boat to guide us in when we reached the port entrance was interesting but they understood our feeble attempt to pronounce their marina name and a friendly pair quickly turned up. Without them we’d have probably run aground, the dredged channel is perilously close to waves breaking on rocks on the port hand side a short distance inside the harbour walls. It was a spectacular entrance with the ancient fortified medina walls of Rabat on the cliffs to our right and further up the river lots of small open fishing boats gaily painted white and blue moored fore and aft along the Rabat bank. On the northern Salé bank is salt marsh (mosquitoes are rife). Temptress was doing eight knots over the ground on the incoming tide – not a place for the faint hearted nor an entrance to undertake if there was any swell outside.
 
Research about the port prior to our arrival implied that some baksheesh would be asked for by officials to oil our way through the endless form filling and that small gifts in the shape of ciggies or alcohol (neither of which we felt comfortable with giving partly because we don’t smoke ourselves and partly because many Muslims don’t drink) would be needed but that has not been the case. A simple “salaam alaykum” before introducing ourselves, a smattering of French conversation to follow and plenty of smiles has been all that we needed.  That plus plenty of ink as we filled in forms asking for the same information several times over! I’m sure that once we’ve checked in and out of a few more ports down this coast both our passport numbers and the boat registry details will be as easy to recall as our shoe size and date of birth. Then it was off to our appointed berth, a very short pair of finger pontoons with French style end-loops rather than cleats that we are securely fastened to on either side, stern to for ease of boarding. After that a final round of form filling at the marina office and we could relax.

Carpets, Rue de Consuls, Rabat

A modern bridge crosses the river just upstream of the marina and there are two tram lines which we have yet to explore. One key fact we were quickly acquainted with by our Belgian neighbour is that the two cities have separate taxi systems and they won’t cross the river bridge so trying to get back from the supermarket on the other side of the bridge with any sizeable shop is not easy! The advice was to take the tram or a taxi to the Carrefour out of town on our side of the river ie Salé. We plan to try this out later today as supplies are running short. A trip round Salé

Tour Hassan, Rabat

Medina yesterday turned up coffee, dates and lots of fruit and veg stalls plus the skipper finally got his planks (more on those in a later blog when he’s finished constructing his diesel can racks) for the grand sum of 470 dirhams (about 35 quid) but we didn’t fancy the meat on offer what with the lack of refrigeration and the flies.

How long will we be here? Like the rest of the boats we are in no hurry to get to the Canaries, berthing here is relatively cheap at 17 dh per metre per night (there are 13 Moroccan dirhams to the GB pound), less for longer stays and very safe so we might leave the boat and take the train to Marrakesh for a couple of days and or a day trip to Casablanca. Then there is historic Rabat to explore across the river.