14th March 2018 – ??
Two top tips for boats on arrival: do check the swell forecast before you arrive, and clean your tables before tying up on the waiting pontoon.
Something about the entrance must be awkward as they prefer to send a rib up to guide you in – after entering on a calm day, we were not sure what the problem with the approach is (and nor were a couple of local fishermen we spoke to while waiting), but this is what the marina prefers. Edit: after visiting the beach that overlooks the entrance from the sea on a day with c. 3m swells, I see why the rib guides people in, and the port closes regularly due to weather – SCARY.
On the way towards the breakwater each of Charlotte and I had called on the VHF (in English) to let the marina know we were coming. No response. I tried a third time, with more detail, and got a response in French the gist of which was “could you repeat that” – I replied in my broken French, the marina staff replied in perfect English an we went from there. Lesson learnt and employed since – try my French first, even if it is crap.
After being guided down the river by a very snazzy rib, we tied up to the waiting pontoon to await officialdom. They arrived remarkably quickly, and we were only part way through tidying up. Those of you who know our kids and parenting can imagine what the boat looked like after 24 hours on passage. Tidy, it was not. We had got the worst of the clutter away – the rice was not on the floor, the duplo was contained, books were in places books might live. But clothes still littered the sofas and the saloon table wasn’t exactly spotless. The customs/immigration/police trifecta of officials didn’t quite turn their noses up in disgust, but the woman from immigration did suggest we clean the table before getting the forms out.
Morocco loves paperwork, apparently – a form for each branch, all with the same information, and copies of the ships papers (including engine receipts as the serial number of the engine wasn’t mentioned on the sale documents). Anyway, all very quick and easy with more smiles than frowns – helped by the policeman’s perfect English and the fact I tried to understand the French forms before checking I was writing the correct things!
We then moved onto our berth, and got around to looking at the price list. If I am reading it right, this place will cost us less than £10 per night. Including water/electric/bad-wifi. The area is extensively patrolled by security people, as you might expect given that we are next to the King’s pontoon, but I still love the fact that there’s a rope-you-unclip-yourself as the only division between the pontoons and the public space. It feels perfectly safe, nevertheless, and we will not worry if we decide to leave the boat here for a few days to head inland and explore the country a little.
Since we’ve been here we have had a wander round the Medinas in both Rabat (a short tram ride away) and Salé. Arthur’s day was made in Rabat by a man who was wandering past who bent down to say hello to him and handed him a yogurt before wandering off – Arthur spent the next hour or so demanding we stop to eat it. He ate it when we were back on the boat, and it was good. Both Medinas were wonderful places to explore, and very different in the bits we touched upon. While Rabat was full of the type of shopping you might expect, Salé feels like a town in which people lived as well as worked, with kids playing in the streets, artisans in their workshops, and smaller shops obviously geared to locals as well as visitors. We’ll spend more time in both in the coming days.
The area around the marina itself is very different. It feels a lot like Cardiff Bay, where we kept our old Westerly Centaur, actually – the restaurants are consciously international, shopping is high-end, and public space is immaculately clean. It’s nice enough, but a little sterile. The saltmarsh and view over to the Kasbah is simply beautiful, though, and once you walk a little further down to the beach (past the place where the rowing-ferries leave) local life begins to seep in again.
More when we leave, or (more likely) in a few months’ time when we next get around to updating the blog!