We were able to stay in Morocco for almost two weeks, and it was time for us to head south to the Canary Islands, the next stop for us. The situation of the marina in Rabat is a very narrow entrance from the ocean, and it has a sort of criss-cross of sand bars that are very shallow at low tide, and with any sort of wind pushing a ‘swell’ eastward, makes the entrance difficult or even dangerous to enter or leave. Often, the marina will close the entrance and boats are not permitted to enter or leave.
So, with this scenario, there were a lot of boats, like us, wanting to head to the Canaries. So, when the weather finally showed a window that was OK to leave, they ended up with 22 boats all scheduled to leave the same day! The customs office, and passport control people, etc., had a very busy day checking everyone out of the marina and the country. They wound up going from boat to boat throughout the marina and checking us all out one by one instead of everyone going to the office and overwhelming them. It worked out pretty smoothly for a country and for officials who don’t normally like to bend the rules, and of course LOVE stamping papers and things. So, they brought the ‘drug dog’ around and he climbed on everyone’s boat, sniffing for illegal stuff, while the officers were clambering around, sorting out the documents. All in all, it struck me as a pretty funny sight. These guys did not look at all natural in their suits and ties trying to climb over scruffy boaters, all waiting on their decks and just wanting to leave.
The whole process took about 3 hours and we were off, at around 4:00 in the afternoon, and although the swell had “died down” from an off-shore storm a few days earlier, there was still a pretty large roll waiting for us as soon as we headed through the entrance. I could understand why the marina was cautious about letting people leave, as we plowed over some big waves and having to time it just right so they wouldn’t crash on our decks. Once we were past, by several hundred yards, the sea calmed down a bit and although the swell was still 3+ meters, it was a more gentle roll and not breaking.
So………we were off for our longest passage yet, just over 500 miles, and our first real introduction to the Atlantic Ocean. We’d heard from a lot of other boaters,much more experienced than us (that’s not saying much, we’re about as ‘green’ as grass) that the Atlantic has a much different ‘feel’ than the Med, because it is SO much larger and waves and patterns have much more room to build up and extend over long distances. So that makes the swell and roll feel different than we were used to.
Typically, on our passages, Rachel, Lily and Maggie feel the most seasick, because the Med is kind of a ‘jerky’ motion, while the Atlantic is supposedly more ‘rolly’. Well, once we were in the Atlantic, it was Levi and I’s turn to feel seasick. It felt a bit like trying to use a hula hoop on a treadmill, and by the time we’d gone several hours and into the night, we BOTH wound up going over the leeward side of the boat while everyone else went to sleep. Not a fun experience, but as anyone who has been seasick will say, it is MUCH better (in my opinion) to ‘get it over with’, instead of being miserable for hours and hours. It’s like you tell your body “fine, if you want to do it that way, let’s do it!” and then your body kind of gives up making you feel miserable.
Add to this first night that there were 21 other boats out here with us, and we could see a lot of mast and navigation lights all around us. Then…..we all wound up going through a huge area with dozens of Moroccan fishermen and their net fields and it got pretty chaotic. We later found out several boats had gotten tangled in the nets, had to swim in the ocean in the middle of the night, cutting nets off their boats, trying to negotiate with very irrate fishermen screaming in Arabic, and as you can imagine, it was NOT AT ALL smooth sailing. We came close to some nets ourselves, and a small fishing boat sped up to us with strobe lights flashing at around midnight and we didn’t know what we were in for. He ended up being really helpful and used his boat to guide us in and around the nets and show us the way out of the net fields for almost 45 minutes. We were grateful, because there is no way we would have figured out what was where, there was no moon and in the pitch black, you could barely tell who was where, much less worrying about fishing nets.
So, Levi and I took turns watching and sleeping in the cockpit the first night getting on our way and we were glad for sunrise! Better news on the passage in the next post!