We track around the Mediterranean coast of the Rock of Gibraltar with its very high cliffs, and come into the large commercial port here.
Gibraltar is a British colony and is the site of a British air and naval base. Residents voted in 1967 to remain part of Britain, but apparently there is still friction between U.K and Spain. (We are told that 2 days ago a skipper from Australia had to take down his Spanish flag and fly either the British or Australian flag (if they didn´t have a British one). or move on from this marina They had to pay someone to go up the mast for them to do it as the flag was caught from being in strong winds).Many people suggest we don´t bother coming to Gibraltar but we have a wonderful time here. We are tired when we come into the Customs office and then move around to the marina. It wasn´t very pleasant out in that swell.
Our spirits are lifted immediately when we realize we are assisted in by some Australians, and are tied up between their two boats on the same arm of the jetty.
They are having a barb-e-que and invite us to join them. We have so much fun we forget we are tired and go to bed at 1pm! Usually after a sail like we just expereinced we have a light dinner and go straight to sleep. We admit to sleeping in until 10.30am. though.
We plan to leave this afternoon but when Ross goes to Customs to pick up the Raymarine part Julian has sent here for us, it has closed until 8am. tomorrow morning.
We take a trip up the "Rock". The views are sensational, out to the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and across the Mediterranean to the east, the north coast of Africa to the south and Spain to the north.

Views across the Straits of Gibraltar, out to the Atlantic Ocean

View across Gibraltar

The St. Michael caves are amazing. Inside they look like a huge cathedral with their fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. It has all been beautifully lit to show them to their best advantage. Concerts are held here during the summer months. We are pleased we come up here in a van with a guide and not in the cable car as planned because the distances between these sites is too far to walk in the time we have. Also it is very hot).
The tunnels which were built for defence, high up on the Rock, in the late C18 are an incredible feat, and featured in the 1st. and 2nd. world wars.

A section within the tunnels

The Barbary macaques (monkeys) are resident here. One sits on Ross´shoulder.

Many of them have young babies, which are very cute and playful. They originally were brought over from Morocco as pets, but when they became difficult to handle domestically they were turned loose here.
The architecture in Gibaltar is interesting with its mix of Moorish, British and Spanish buildings. The British influence is also seen in the street and pub names, and the bobbies with their english police hats.
We invite the two Australian couples for a drink before dinner to thank them for their hospitality the previous night. Sometime during the evening Peter from Antigua comes on board with his small size guitar. He has the most wonderful voice and repertoire.

Peter singing

This leads to dancing on the saloon roof, singing and later to recitals of Banjo Patterson and the "Man from Snowy River."

Ross and Ross reciting the "The Man from Snowy River"

All the men on board have something to offer. It is surprising what yachties can do! We had the most wonderful night (with no dinner) and up to the wee hours.
We hope to see Sue Ellen and Ross in the Canaries and Peter in Antigua. We will keep in touch with them all.

Ross has a difficult and frustrating time collecting the GPS antenna from customs and it all takes a long time, and a great deal of patience, including being sent from one end of Gibraltar to the other. It has to be cleared at customs and then picked up miles away. It is also difficult to fit in place because of its position on the boat which is very inaccessible, and it is very hot.

Leaving Gibraltar

We leave to cross to Ceuta, in Morocco, with a very mild forecast. However we are soon heading straight into a 28 kt. wind, a swell and a 40 degree leeway. This again is not pleasant but it is only a couple of hours trip.
About one and a half hours after we are settled here a lovely young Irish couple and their 10 year old son pull in beside us. They are very experienced sailors (they have done the Around Ireland race 5 times) and didn´t enjoy the crossing at all. They had winds up to 40 kts. We spend time with them now and later in the evening exchanging anecdotes and helpful sailing hints in these waters.
We have been keen to come to Ceuta as we are advised we you can gas here for all fittings. All this information is out of date as this is no longer so and we have no luck with ours. We will have to organize an appropriate fitting in Australia. Fortunately we still have one full tank to last the rest of this season. Fuel is cheaper here though which is a benefit. As we refuel, not thinking I start to put up the Moroccan flag. (Cueta is still part of Spain). Realizing my error I apologize and replace it with the Spanish flag. Knowing Spain won the soccer finals helped the situation and the young man was later very helpful in tying us up in the marina.
For our first time in Africa arriving in Ceuta is not as you might expect. It is a lovely Spanish town with some grand architecture and tree lined streets, sometimes with palms. It is lively in the centre with all its duty free shopping. Also we see many Moroccans who come here to shop for the day for goods that are not available in Morocco. There are two fine beaches south of the isthmus on the waterfront near the town. The evening here is very pleasant as the heat of the day subsides and the lights come on in the town, especially lighting up some of the grander buildings. We really enjoy the view from Impulsive.
We are woken very early today at 5am, by the beginnings of the town´s seafaring festival. It is a pity we have to leave and will miss it. People have been advised not to go out in this area on their boat because people will be skylarking about until mid-night.

Leaving Ceuta

Friday 16th. July
It is advisable to leave for Tanger two hours after high tide so you will get some westerly flow. There will always be an east set in the current because of the drain into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. The sea in the Atlantic Ocean is a higher level than in the Mediterranean, apparently due to evaporation in the Mediterannean. So we leave at 7am. We have a good trip except when we try to cross a bay and not hug the coast as advised, because the current is really against us and our SOG drops down to 2 kts. Once we track back nearer the coast it settles down and we regain a reasonable SOG. over 6 kts.
The scenery along the first part of this coastline is stunning with its high peaked mountain tops and sheer cliffs.

The north coast of Africa

Arriving at Tanger

Arriving in Tanger is an amazing contrast to Ceuta. This is a major and very old fishing port. There are only two small pontoons for visiting boats to tie up to. As we approach it looks fully occupied so we do small, slow circles in front of the Customs House while we decide what to do. A large yacht is just leaving which is encouraging.
Some men call out to us and suggest with gesticulations ( we cannot speak arabic) that we raft up to another large yacht at the end of the pontoon. Ross comes alongside perfectly but with more gesticulations we are told we must move and raft up alongside a large fishing boat first for several hours to allow another boat to leave more easily. We are lucky here as one of the skippers speaks english and can explain the situation to us.

Ross being rowed ashore

The fisherman are very helpful tying us up and one of them rows Ross back to the dock to go to the Customs Office. We use up more than half our supplies of cigarettes for "thankyous" with all these manoeuvres. I automatically start using the camera and am asked not to.
After reading the guide books and their advice about avoiding situations with groups of young men, I feel vulnerable tied up here. They specifically ask that only Ross goes into the custom´s office.

Tied up to fishing boats

We are in constant contact with Chakib who is joining us on the boat here. Chakib lives in Casablanca and is spending the next week with us sailing, guiding us in Morocco and having us to stay at his home. He is a long standing friend of our mutual friend Didier who we are planning to meet up with in a few days. Didier is unable to sail with us because he suffers from sea sickness.
Ross then takes the dinghy in to pick up Chakib from the pontoon. I make sure he takes the phone again as I still feel vulnerable even though these young men seem reliable. I put the computer and camera etc. out of sight.
Quite by chance I go up on deck to bring in a towel and am astonished to see a huge fishing boat directly in front of us with one of our stauncheons and a safety wire already under pressure from its hull. It is one of those moments when one gets that extra strength needed, from somewhere. Pushing Impulsive back I call out to the guys on the next door fishing boat and they are fantastic. Luckily there are a few of them , with lots of strength and they work quickly and efficiently. The next thing I see before we are free is the headsail resting by the fishing boat´s gunnel and about to be pushed backwards. One of the guys just freed our rope from their bow in time. I am so relieved everything is alright and so grateful for their help, I give them more cigarettes! It is a great relief to see Ross coming back. We decide to leave this tie up but there doesn´t seem to be anywhere else to go.


Chakib is a wonderful help with the translating and we end up tied up to a pilot boat and at last feel safe. We take this opportunity to look through the bustling and colourful old town, and have a local lunch. There are many souks and markets , beggars and hustlers. A great advantage of having Chasib with us is we are not bothered by these people at all. This is a great relief as we hear this can be very frustrating and irritating.

An olive stall

The Boulevard

Some newer Colonial buildings (with older ones in the background)

Tanger is known as the gateway to Morocco and is such a contrast to where we have just been.

There is a great deal of construction work and development happening here, as we are to see all the way down the Moroccan coast, to improve tourism.

Returning to the boat we request to have our passports returned ready to leave. We have to wait for over an hour until the customs officers return from lunch!
Finally we set off for an overnight sail to Rabat. It is a very attractive coastline with green hills down to the cliffs and the sea, with mountains in the background. It is a beautiful evening as we round the n.west cape.

Rounding the n.west cape of Africa

There is very little wind, as forecast and we motor sail with a small amount of mainsail up to steady the swell which is quite large again. Being about 3 n.miles off the coast gives us the minimum swell. We average 7 kts. through the night.
It is a lovely night again and we both have many fishing boats to keep an eye on. Chakib keeps us company from time to time which helps us to stay awake. I also have a good book to finish, "The Help". The overnight sailing also gives us time to catch up on the journal and reading up on the history of places we plan to visit etc.

Coming into the marina at Rabat is quite difficult. We have arrived at the ebbing tide just before half tide, instead of full tide so Ross is worried about crossing the bar which is only .2 at low tide. There are also rolling waves and a head wind.

Impulsive on the Custom´s dock

A run-about boat comes out to meet us and leads us some distance up the channel to tie up on the Custom´s dock. This area is all very new as is the marina. It takes 3 hours for them to clear us including having a drug squad dog on board.We sense the staff are all new to this system . We are the only boat to come in this morning so we can ´t imagine how they will cope if they have more than this at the one time. They are all friendly and polite though in contrast to some of the staff at Tanger. Luckily we are used to having meals at all hours and this is an example. We finally have breakfast about mid-day.
It is too late now to go to Fez for the day as planned. Didier´s friends, Rasheed and Fiduea have just arrived at the boat and are offering to drive us. We know nothing of this plan and are feeling very well looked after. We have brunch altogether on Impulsive and then head off in Rasheed´s van.
Rabat is the capitol of Morocco. It holds the seat of government and the king resides here. Before we set off I check with Fideua our dress is acceptable and won´t offend anybody.
We visit the enormous site of the uncompleted palace of king Hussan . His tomb is also here in lavish surrounds including many beautiful mosaics..The main street is lined with palms, and there are many narrow streets with their white-washed houses. There are many lovely colonial houses with overhanging balconies.

Outside Hussan´s Palace

Outside the tomb

The Tower at the Palace

It is very touristy but Fideua encourages me to have some Henna on my forearms and the backs of my hands It is supposed to be good luck so there is no point in saying "no" to that.
Enroute to Casablanca we see many roadside stalls with wonderful fresh produce eg. grapes and melons. There are working donkeys everywhere. We stop at about 4.30 pm for a typical Moroccan tajine lunch. Fortunately Chakib eats little meat so understands me being a vegetarian, because typically Rusheed enjoys large quantities of meat.

Tanjine lunch
Fortunately Chakib, Rusheed and Fideua speak some french and english, because Ross is managing his french well. I have "un peu", and neither of us has any arabic except the word for thankyou.
We now take the coast road via Mohammadia (the city of flowers). Here we pass a large oval with hundreds of horses and riders preparing for a horse spectacle, the Fantasia.
The Hassan the second mosque at Casablanca is enormous. It is set by the Atlantic ocean and has the most wonderful display of mosaics.

Outside Hussan´s second mosque in Casablanca

Mosaics in the Mosque

The old town is a never ending meander through narrow, cobbled streets filled with colourful bazars and stalls.

The Medina at Casablanca

We experience the heavy traffic problems here when we drive along the Casablanca coastal road.
Our final destination this evening is at Chakib`s house where we are invited for dinner and to stay the night. His wife Fatma serves the most delicious Moroccan couscous. Fatma doesn´t speak any english but through her business she runs she does speak french.

Fatma and Chakib

Fatma´s Couscous

I am just starting to enjoy relaxing and looking forward to a comfortable and uninterrupted night´s sleep in this lovely home, after a night´s sailing, as I am sure Ross is, when Rasheed and Chakib announce that the forecast temperature tomorrow for Fez where we plan to go, is 43 degrees.They suggest realistically we should leave after dinner to tackle the four hour drive rather than in the heat tomorrow. We all agree to this plan and are back in the van just after 11pm.
The seats are adjusted and Ross and I sleep lying down in the back. Again we are feeling very well treated. It has been a very long day of driving for Rasheed. We finally arrive at the tiny town of Moulay-Yacoub,(named after a legal man considered a saint) on the other side of the plain to Fez. It is 3am. Ross and i think Rasheed and Chakib have gone to check out our accommodation just assuming it is booked. Suddenly we feel like back-packers when they return to say there is no accommodation there tonight! There is nothing for it but to all sleep in the van. Luckily it is a large and comfortable one.

Rasheed waking up in the van!

Early morning freshen - up

Lovely scene at Moulay-Jacoub


People arriving on their donkeys

We are all up at 6.30am and it is very cool. People are arriving on their donkeys and mules with their wares for the stalls.
Fideua takes me for a hot thermal (sulphur) and therapeutic bath. These baths are well known here. The water comes from the nearby mountains. it is the most welcome bath i have ever had and come out very refreshed ready to explore Fez. I do wonder what our children would think about this ? It´s the sort of thing we used to tell them not to do!

Mosaic factory we call into enroute

Mosaic fountain we´d like to take home!

The mosaics being fitted upside down

Cutting the mosaics to size

Rubbish is a huge problem here. People never seem to feel responsible for it.

Entering the Medina at Fez

Fez is the religious, artistic and intellectual centre of Morocco. Our guide, Mohommad is extremely knowledgeable and we certainly are given a marvelous insight to this city and its culture. This includes viewing the palace which is on 37 hectares of land so is very large. We drive through the Jewish quarters . The community has been here since 1450 in the middle ages, and is known as the Mella. The architecture is obviously different here having the balconies on the outside of the houses. In contrast to in the Medina in the Muslim quarters where the balconies are on the inside of the buildings so the women cannot be seen from the outside. We meander through the very ancient medina (old town). It is the largest there is. It would be very easy to get lost here in the extremely narrow, cobbled, bustling, crowded and chaotic streets all the time having to let the heavily laden donkeys and mules pass by with barely an inch to spare. There are so many colourful scenes with the artisans and craftsmen proudly making their wares. The carpet houses, the tannery, the dyers, and all the souks, to name a few are all going about their daily lives. You can hear the constant tinkering with metal and tools. Ross has his shoe repaired by a delightful old cobbler.


One advantage of spending time wandering through the medina is it is cool. Mohommad explains it is very old here but has all the latest in cyber technology.

Cool and shady in the covered medina

A donkey resting in the Medina

Mosaics in an old school

Inside the school

Local nougatIn the Medina

The old mosque within the medina

Mosaics inside the mosque

Famous fountain near the Medina

The tannery

We have lunch in a beautiful Riad (an old mansion). Rasheed is not at all happy about this because he feels it is touristy (which it is ) and very expensive. Ross explains we really would like to have this experience so it works out and without being too expensive. it takes some time to appreciate the architecture and the interior decor, including the magnificent mosaics.
Earlier we visited a mosaic factory and appreciate the amount of work involved.
Returning to the car we realize how hot it is today. it is a clear heat though which is more manageable than with humidity. The van is like sitting in a sauna. We have noticed that everywhere we go to park somebody watches over the car and expects to be paid when you leave. Included in the service is seeing you safely out of the park.
The drive back to Impulsive at Rabat is about two and a half hours. Rasheed is very hungrary so we stop for a local tajene dinner which is delicious.(not that Ross or i feel we need any dinner at all)
Next Rasheed pulls into his "Club". This magnificently well groomed and pristine clean place is refreshing and cool as the sun begins to drop down towards the horizon. It is a marked contrast to where we have been today.

Ross wants to change the fuel filters this evening and organize the navigating on the dell computer with its C-map navigation system, because apparently the raymarine chart plotter doesn´t operate south of Casablanca. He is just about to launch into all this when Didie´s friend, Baibenou arrives at Impulsive with her husband. This is another surprise plan but again very welcome. Ross postpones his plans and we set off with them to the Medina. We walk through this area to Baibenou´s parents house where their gorgeous 5 year old daughter is being baby sat. It is lovely to be made so welcome.
We feel we must decline Baibenou´s generous offer to stay at their home tonight as we have to catch the tide to cross the bar tomorrow at 9.30am. and there is lots to prepare before then. This is a great pity but we have to leave tomorrow to fit in with our schedule. eg. meeting up with Didier and leaving Morocco in time to meet Scott and Jeanette , Augusta and Lily in the Canary Islands.
Departing from Rabat is another lengthy process. Ross has been through customs but we are then told we have to wait until the staff return from breakfast to collect our passports. They are aware of us needing to leave in time to clear the bar. Then we are told we need to dock outside the custom´s office to have another inspection for drugs by the dog. In the meantime we are worried by the plastic bag rubbish in the water which can get sucked up in the water inlets to cool the engine.

Leaving Rabat

We finally set off for another overnight sail further south to Essaouira. It is very pleasant motor sailing with both sails up, without quite enough wind to sail but it is in the right direction coming from the west. There is a mild swell.

Sailing past Casablanca with all its white painted houses, known as god´s colour, it is obvious why it is called the "white city". The Hassan mosque stands out impressively on the skyline.
Later there is even less wind so we furl the headsail. The swell stays moderate.
A huge cruising ship passes in front of us and that is the only boat we see all night.