Passage to Morocco

Oct 1-3, 2009

Our passage from Cadiz to Rabat, Morocco was really fine, except we had to motor half the way as there was no wind. The seas had a huge gentle swell, quite comfortable enough. We saw a couple of white swans miles from shore, then never saw any more again the whole time.

As we were approaching Morocco, we were cloaked with dense fog and could barely see all the fish pots around as they were only marked by a 500ml plastic water bottle discernable in the chop.

There is a bar across the entrance to Bouregreg Marina and we were happy that a dinghy from the marina raced out toward us to guide us through the pass. There were some shallow areas but most of it had been dredged and we had no problems although we made sure to enter just before high tide with our 8 foot draft.

Bouregreg Marina

We motored up the river past the castle and Kasbah and tied to the Custom's dock where we checked into Morocco, then headed to the marina and squeezed into our slip. The Facility was excellent, new and clean, with good security and well made docks with very short fingers.

We were met at the dock by a huge community of our cruising friends that were already there.

That  night was spent going boat-to-boat catching up with friends, comparing notes on traveling around Morocco and where to go next (Canary Islands).


Oct 4, 2009

We hiked into Rabat, crossed the bridge over the Bou Regreg River and then walking about 2 kms along the river. We passed fishermen piling their nets and lots of local activity along the sea front walkway. A man garbed in a robe approached us giving us the impression of a wizard in his long red caftan and pointy hood.

We Initially walked to the downtown area of Rabat, the capital city of Morocco (pop 1.5 million) where the wide swept-clean streets displayed art deco and neo-moorish style architecture. Speeding Mercedes taxis and tall buildings dominated this commercial area. Along the palm lined boulevard locals lounged in plastic chairs, over cups of mint tea, at the sidewalk cafes. We saw very few tourists.

Ambling away from the downtown core, through local residential areas toward the Medina, we noted non-descript, commonplace crumbling, square white concrete homes.

The Medina

Through a decorated cement arched opening, we entered the Medina, the old section of Rabat where we stepped into another world, where time has stood still, skinny mazes of brick and stone streets amidst old medina houses.

The labyrinth of streets bustled with activity, filled with everything imaginable. Walking the streets was like going through a department store, tiny hovels in the walls each sold something different.

Bags & Baskets

Bootlegged DVD's

Bagel & bread

One sold shoes, another plumbing, another paper products, another toys and so on, everything piled high, spilling out into the street. 

Everything from soup to nuts, this section is plastics

Greens, fresh from the garden, wilting in the mid day sun

The melons with the 3 red dots
are the best, #1 grade

Woman in Burke haggles over price of apples

Fresh baked bread, stacked flat and round

Spices & grains


Beets & Greens


The old walled part of the city was fascinating. The smells of third world.... curries, Arabian spices, figs, snails, fish,  dried fruit, cats, meat with the hanging skinned bodies, heads on display and dangling feet, and of course, the smell of decaying garbage and urine, putting us into sensory overload.  We really had to fight the flies in the market area so postponed replenishing the pantry!

Colorful produce in abundance

market butchers, fish mongers

Pungent aroma of herbs and spices

Despite the competition to sell cheap shoes, colorful textiles, ornate silver wear, bootlegged DVD's there was no aggressive bids for business. We were basically ignored in the souks. Locals haggled over rough white wool as it hung from scales, bartering still a way of life in the community.

Heaped turtles and cages of lizards struggled
to escape the captivity of their plastic bins.


We laughed at the apparel modelled by some very out of date and manikins with freaky faces. Some of the outfits offered, including lacy underwear were a surprise in such a strict Muslim country where many women wear the full burkes when in public.

Beggars squatted with their outstretched hands. Blind men tapped their canes along the alleys calling Allah! Allah! Old men shuffled so hunched over that they couldn't see where they were going. Lots of deformities, lots of vacant faces, the look of desperation and depression in their eyes. The poverty is unimaginable.

The tangle of narrow streets each produced a new adventure. We passed an area of pricy crafts and "touristy" items only to spill. seconds later, into an alleyway of destitute Moroccans selling flea market items, displayed on the ground in a haphazard fashion. For sale or trade was everything no one could possible want. broken eyeglasses, faded cassette tapes, worn out clothing, broken plastic toys, old books, all very grubby.

The alley spilled onto the River road. There were more shops of furniture makers and other carved wooden items, along with a wonderful antique shop where we made a few purchases of wooden bowls made from cedar root and an antique flask.

Off the beaten path the stone streets offered motivating exploring. The homes of the villagers. Passing prayer rooms and children playing in the streets, women gathered in conversation, men sipping tea.


On another trip to Rabat, we visited the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, built in traditional Moroccan style. ...More

We also took a visit to the Kasbah in Rabat, famous for its Doors.....More  


Oct 5  Closer to the Marina was the town of Sale, a smaller community than Rabat. Sale is a quiet and traditional kind of place, typical Moroccan village with more conservative dress and no interest in tourists.

We took a stroll toward the main part of town in search of a bakery, walking along the walls of what looked like castle fortress. On the stone patio at the front entrance, local kids had a spirited game of soccer in progress.


The Medina

Inside the Medina was lively with the goings-on of daily life in Morocco. The market square was once the setting for slave auctions. Today it is an authentic meeting place for trade of spices, cheap shoes, carpets, crafts, woodworks, textiles and silverware, produce and everything imaginable.


People live in the Medina area in run down peeling concrete homes.


Everywhere you go there is a henna painter waiting to grab your arm and start painting swirls of color on your hands, despite pleas of No Thanks, NO!! Henna is used to decorate hands and feet of Moroccan women for special occasions and weddings.

Of course on completion of the decoration, the artist (?) demands money!

Dock Parties, Birthday Parties

We had fun with the gang at the dock taking every excuse for a celebration or get-together!

Ian's (Remedy) Birthday Party

Sarah's (Djarrka) 59th Birthday Party

Chrissy, Simon, Roy, Margaret, Tom Wendy, GB, Roy, Margaret, Ian Gord, Ginny, Dianne, Liz


While Ascension was safely tucked in at the marina dock, we made several inland trips by train.

Our first adventure was to Marrakesh, on the Marrakesh Express, with a side trip to the Atlas Mountains. More......



Our favourite outing was to Fes, the the most complete medieval city in the Arab world, where donkeys are the main source of transportation. More........

October 20, 2009

So we are waiting in the Marina with Djarkka , Sheraz, Feel Free, Traveler, Argonat, Meander and several other boats all waiting to leave. The sea state at the entrance is not very good, big big swell breaking! Traveler has taken the opportunity to surf just near the entrance!
Yesterday a British boat, about a 45 ft Jeaneau tried to come in at daybreak and had one really large wave, (after a succession of good sized waves) pick the whole boat up and spin it around dumping skipper, wife and crew in the water. One person swam to shore and another managed to get back to the boat, the others were picked up by the marinaras in a large rib who were very professional and seemed to have done this sort of thing before?? Anyway they all had minor injuries, bent all the stainless on the back of the boat and broke a spoke in the helm wheel along with a lot of water below. All in all, very lucky. Incidentally the skipper was the author of Transiting The Gibraltar Straits Cruising Guide and he has been through the pass into Rabat several times before!

October 24
After having a look at the conditions, we decided that the seas had flattened so we checked out of the marina. That was a lengthily process as they brought a dog on board to sniff around. (for drugs I think). Finally we headed out on the high tide at 5 pm, escorted by the marina staff in their dinghy. The swell was still quite big and it felt weird sailing out through the breakwall, surfers sliding by the boat on the waves!
We left the city's clusters of stained cement buildings covered with brown haze behind us, followed by the coastline of white sand beaches and small fishing villages, harbors and fortified towns. Unfortunately there was not any wind so we reluctantly had to put our fragile motor to use. Not sure how many hours the old gal has left, and compounded by the high price of diesel, we would much rather sail. The swell on the sea was very steep so we were rolling and swinging back and forth. I had to resort to my seasickness pills again. The further we got away from land, the better the seastate got.