ARC Rally, Day 3

On our third day at sea we broke one curse and acquired another.
Tuesday afternoon saw beautiful and relaxed spinnaker sailing with winds in the mid teens gradually easing into the evening. We made some good progress towards our waypoint near the Cape Verde Islands while gathering weather information about a rather nasty trough making its way across the Atlantic Ocean and offering up adverse winds as far as 15 degrees north latitude.
The sky was cloudless and the horizon clear-ideal conditions for the elusive green flash. As the sun dropped toward the horizon we played some Café del Mar music, opened a bottle of Spanish rose and the crew lined up on the starboard rail, cameras poised, waiting for an encore of last evening’s performance. Conditions couldn’t have been better, or could they. The sun dropped and there was nada, nothing after.
At least we had Merima’s excellent dinner of beef in gravy, chunky mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and sautéed baby peppers to console us.
By midnight, the wind was down to less than five knots and the sails would no longer stay full, slatting in the gently rolling seas. Charles’ attempt to “hot up” got Moonshadow moving along at 1-2 knots, but put us on a course to Senegal-on the opposite side of the Atlantic from St. Lucia. Sailing on the opposite board would have steered us into the teeth of an oncoming gale. Nobody wanted to say the “m” word but with no good options and heavy hearts, we doused the kite, sheeted in the main and started the motor. We have been motor sailing directly to our waypoint since 0025 this morning and the weather forecasts suggest we may be cursed with light air for the next 2-3 days.
Sea life typically encountered on a blue water passage is slowly beginning to appear. We’re starting to see the occasional sea bird or two. Charles spotted the first flying fish of the passage and on his watch was visited by a pod of dolphins who came by for a quick hello and a surf in our bow wake.
I spotted a pod of dolphins heading north this morning just before a spectacular red sunrise but they were not so sociable with humans.
Later in the morning we hooked and landed a 12 pound mahi-mahi (a.k.a. dolphin fish or dorado). This was the first mahi-mahi, let alone decent fish, we’ve caught on our line since the Indian Ocean, finally breaking the Mediterranean fishing curse we’ve carried for the last four summers. We’re all looking forward to a fresh (and free) seafood meal.
With the Yanmar doing most of the work, there’s not been much for the MooCrew to do but gaze out across the mill pond of a sea, catching an occasional glimpse of another ARC boat, read, sleep, eat or listen to the daily ARC radio schedule. Today’s “sked” was quite entertaining, with everyone in the ARC complaining about the weather (but nobody doing anything about it), a trivia quiz, sharing stories of cooling off with a swim in the ocean and techniques for success at fishing.
Some diehards have yet to turn on the engine, hoping to make the passage under wind power alone. For them it looks like it will be a very long and frustrating passage. I say “first one to the club drinks more.”
It is the skipper’s birthday today, so rumor has it that there may be a party on board tonight. Drop on by if you are in the neighborhood.

Our noon position today was 20 deg. 59 min. north by 20 deg. 39 min. west and we’ve set the ship’s clocks to the Cape Verde time zone at GMT -1 hour. Our noon to noon run was 182 miles.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt

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ARC Rally, Day 2

Monday afternoon kept the crew busy trying to keep the boat moving. As the breeze went down into single digits, our first move was to change up to our #1 spinnaker, a huge 1.5 oz. MPS (multi-purpose spinnaker).
The wind became very shifty and then went well forward from northeast to southeast. We were hoping to stay in a nice patch of forecast breeze running about 100 miles off the coast of Africa so didn’t want to get too far west just yet. The crew was trying all sorts of tricks to keep the speed up; adjusting spinnaker pole height and angle, trying the addition of the staysail, playing with sheeting angles, hand steering up and down, etc. in attempt to wring every tenth of a knot of boat speed out of what breeze we had.
When we had it as good as it would get, we took a break for beers at sunset and were rewarded with a magnificent green flash as the sun dipped below the horizon. The “flash” in the green flash actually looked a bit off color on a horizon reddened by the West Sahara dust suspended in the atmosphere. No worries; a green flash is always cool and it was a first for a couple of the crew.
Our snacktician Merima has definitely gotten both her sea and cooking legs. She served up a beautiful smoked salmon and shrimp risotto accompanied by a salad of baby lettuce leaves and a nice bottle of dry white Spanish wine. Dinner was a just reward for a not-so-hard day of messing about on the boat.
The breeze picked up again later in the evening and backed to the northeast. We squared the spinnaker pole and started chewing up the juice. By 2200 hours we had 15, gusting 20 and were getting surfs in the mid to high 11 knot range. This breeze carried on through noon Tuesday so we were making good progress towards our waypoint northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, where we hope the wind Gods will bless us with some decent trade winds.
After spending most of yesterday afternoon under cloud cover, the skies totally cleared last night in time for the rise of a full moon. The moon dipped below the horizon to starboard after the sun rose to port. What a way to enjoy one’s morning coffee!
The ride has been reasonably comfortable so most of us are getting plenty of sleep and enjoying our off-watch time reading, sleeping, chatting and listening to music.
Interestingly, even though we’ve covered nearly 400 miles since the start line, we usually have anywhere from one to five ARC boats in sight at any given time. Are we all going the right way by diving south, or getting it wrong? The next few days will be telling as grib files forecast lighter winds ahead.
Our fishing curse from the Med has carried over to the Atlantic. We’ve had no luck fishing yet, and not seen one dolphin of flying fish. Maybe this should be called the Sahara Sea.
The skies today are clear and the sailing continues to be superb. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn early this morning and the mercury is rising. The only thing we need is for the wind to continue.
Our noon position on Tuesday 23 November was 23 deg. 04 min. north by 18 deg. 23 min. west. Our day’s run from noon Monday was 188 nautical miles.
Cheers, George, Merima, Charles, Graham and Kurt

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ARC Rally, Day 1

The farewell from Las Palmas yesterday morning was overwhelming and like nothing we’d ever experienced. Hundreds of well wishers lined the docks, quays and breakwaters of the marina and waved goodbye to the ARC fleet while a marching band circled the marina and women danced to music blaring from the fuel dock. With 240 yachts trying to get out to the start line on time, and local spectator boats heading out to watch the spectacle of the rally start, the congestion in the marina was like morning rush hour in Los Angeles.
As each entrant slowly departed the marina, the yacht name and country was announced over a p.a. system and was met with cheers and waving flags from the enthusiastic spectators. Each yacht was photographed as it departed the marina. We all felt like rock stars! Or were they politely saying “thanks for coming to the Canary Islands and spending tonnes of Euros, now go home!”
As much as we have all enjoyed our time in Las Palmas and the Canary Islands, we were itching to put to sea and face the challenges and adventures that only an offshore passage can serve up. That said, we we had the jitters that always accompany a long ocean passage mixed with a dose of adrenaline one gets from a tight quarters race start.
We motored out to the start area with an hour up our sleeves, or so we thought. Plenty of time to tune up the boat, make last minute adjustments, and work on our strategy for the start. Yes, of course, until we unfurled our #1 Genoa, sheeted it home and it ripped in the middle of a panel on the leech. A veteran of the first ARC 24 years ago, the “genny” was apparently well past its useful life. Perhaps it will enjoy an easy life of retirement as an awning over a beach bar on some Caribbean island.
The boys and girl made a very snappy headsail change while the stressed-out skipper dodged spectator boats and ARC entrants in the cruising class who were unfamiliar with that silly starboard-tack-has-right-of-way rule.
The next challenge was to figure out exactly where the start line was for the cruising division. That was sorted by the ten minute warning gun and of course, it was ten minutes sailing distance from us. Perrrrrfect timing!
Our strategy for the start was to sail on starboard tack to the pin end of the start line, which happened to be to windward. Just before the start line, we would gybe onto port, set the spinnaker for the photo crew and then sail away from the rest of the fleet who would be to leeward in a huge pocket of disturbed air.
As you might expect, there were a few others who had similar delusions of grandeur. We got it mostly right, but a cowboy from Sweden on a lovely new yacht, which shall remain unnamed (except possibly to his insurance company), confused the translation of words “rally” with “race” and decided to play hardball with us as we approached the start line with the pin to windward and his yacht to leeward. “Up you go!” he called, hoping we would do the lemming/cliff thing and sail across the start line outside the outer distance mark. Clearly he did not have a clue that he was messing with a crew of surly Stewart 34 sailors, who have long been accustomed to yacht racing being a full contact sport. Add to that the fact that another yacht was running the line from right to left ahead of us, which we would have t-boned if we had been wimpish enough to go up, and there were also at least three boats to windward of us who were fully intent on barging in between us and the mark. Let’s just say it was getting very, very cozy.
I reminded him that this was a friendly rally and he, finally seeing the big picture and thinking better of it, decided to bear away and sail his proper course. What he failed to consider is that a boat steers from the stern, so when he turned right within a few millimeters of us, his stern turned left, passing underneath our long boom, which was eased well out to leeward. No problem-except for his shiny stainless steel antenna farm which had a line of aerials that popped under the end of our boom like a playing card on the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Thanks God his big-ass stern anchor didn’t put a hole in our hull or I might have been pissed off. In any event he came out second in the ordeal.
We managed to squeeze through the start line about 10-15 seconds after the starting gun and got the kite up seconds later when the distance between the boats increased to something greater than the the thickness of cigarette paper. Every second counts on a 2700 mile passage!
Annie and Liam had a group of cruising friends aboard “Gone With the Wind” out on the water to watch the start and cheer us on. Shortly after we got going, they motored by blaring the song “Moonshadow” on the stereo, wishing us well, cheering us on and waving us goodbye. Special moments and special friends like this are a few of the many rewards of cruising.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working our way up to windward to insure we had clear air and clawing our way ahead of most of the smaller boats in the cruising divisions. The sailing conditions were brilliant with moderate breezes and slight seas. Yesterdays sailing felt like riding in a Cadillac on ice.
As predicted, the breeze increased significantly in the wind acceleration zone between the Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura Islands and we got a nice slingshot ride south and stayed on a patch of breeze along the coast of Africa. We’re dropping south toward the Cape Verde Islands in order to avoid a weather system that will bring head winds to the great circle route to St. Lucia and to (hopefully) pick up the trade winds at a good angle to take us the rest of the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
Sailing was absolutely beautiful throughout the evening with the kite up, bright moonlight, warm breezes and excellent visibility.
Our noon position on Monday 22 November was 25 deg. 31 min. north by 16 deg. 25 min. west. Our 23 hour run from the 1300 GMT start time was approximately 180 nm for an average speed over the ground of 7.8 knots.
“Moonshadow” and crew are all well and quickly adjusting to the rigors of life at sea. Yes, it time for a beer!

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ARC Rally, Day 0

After years of dreaming, almost a year in planning, months of organization and weeks of final preparations, Moonshadow and crew are ready for the 25th annual running of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). The course will take us approximately 2700 nautical miles from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands of Spain across the North Atlantic Ocean to St. Lucia in the West Indies.
This rally is significant for Moonshadow as it is where she began her westabout circumnavigation with first owner Mike Gluck after she was launched in Finland in 1986. It is significant for us as it is the last long ocean leg of our circumnavigation that started in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in November of 1994.
Moonshadow has attracted a lot of attention since she arrived in Las Palmas two weeks ago as she is the only yacht in the 2010 ARC fleet of 240 yachts that sailed in the 1986 inaugural ARC, and was the first monohull to finish the passage (to Barbados that year), making the crossing in less than 14 days.
Our first crew, Charles Scoones, joined us in Lanzarote nearly a month ago after sailing down from the UK on a Swan 66. Charles is a fellow Stewart 34 sailor and owns Princess, the second one launched and has enjoyed years of successful racing and cruising aboard her in Auckland waters. This transatlantic will be Charles second. His first was more years ago than he will admit to, when he was the tender age of 19 years old. His lifetime of racing and cruising on waters all over the world will be an appreciated asset to the passage.
Our other two crew, Kurt “the Mad Monk” Boyle and Graham “Gollum” Jones, both of whom have been previous passage Moo-Crew, flew half way around the planet from Auckland and joined us early this week.
Graham, also a regular crew on Stewart 34’s, joins us for his seventh passage aboard Moonshadow. His sailing, mechanical, plumbing and general seamanship skills more than make up for his sick and twisted sense of humor. His quick thinking and calm head when all is going pear-shaped is always appreciated aboard.
Kurt is back for his second passage on Moonshadow. Kurt is also a Stewart 34 owner and has raced and cruised his yacht Pelagian in Auckland and Hauraki Gulf waters for 9 years and is shaping up as a competitive racing sailor. As a pastor, we hope he can pull a few strings with the guy above to influence the wind Gods. Otherwise, he’s the only guy that can come close to Graham’s sick humor.
The transatlantic passage will be the second longest for George and the longest for Merima to date. As “snacktician,” Merima has spent countless hours provisioning and planning meals to keep the crew fueled up for the demanding rigors of passage. George will take to the keyboard daily to keep you up to date on our progress and life on board during passage
In the two weeks we’ve been in Las Palmas our livers have endured a punishing schedule of happy hours, cocktail parties, dinner parties and fiestas. The Canarians have been most welcoming and helpful, making sure that we not only have fun, but we have all the skills and supplies to make the fleet of yachts ready for the journey ahead. As I write, yet another parade is marching to “Anchors Aweigh” on the quay astern of us.
We will be competing in the “Invitation Cruising” division o the ARC, which is comprised of cruising yachts 18 meters (about 60 feet) and larger. The largest yacht in the division is an 80 foot Swan which should be a real weapon if the breeze gets up. Mooonshadow is the oldest in the division and carries the smallest sail plan, so it will be interesting to see how we match up the larger, more modern and powerful yachts we’ll be sailing against.
It’s almost time for Kurt to bless the crew and then toss off the lines and head out to the start line off the Las Palmas waterfront so we’ll sign off for today.

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Preparing for the ARC Rally in the Canary Islands

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Moonshadow and Windhorse anchored off Isla Lanzarote. Photo courtesy of Steve Dashew

We are presently in the Canary Islands preparing for the ARC Rally which departs Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island on November 21.  A fleet of 250 yachts will set sail across the Atlantic Ocean for St. Lucia in the West Indies.

We caught up with Steve and Linda Dashew aboard their FPB 83 Windhorse last week.  25 years down the track, Steve revisits one of his earliest “ultimate cruising yacht” designs.  Click for Steve’s comments and some beautiful photos.

Moonshadow participated in the inaugural ARC in 1986 shortly after she was delivered to her first owner Mickael Gluck in Finland.  She completed the passage from Grand Canary to Barbados in just under 14 days.  We’ll be looking to better that time!


Fully dressed and (almost) ready to go in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria


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Morocco to the Canary Islands

We would have liked to spend a bit more time in Morocco, but with a forecast for a few days of fresh northeasterlies, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have tailwinds that would give us a swift passage all the way to the Canary Islands, 450 miles to the southwest.
Our final sendoff from Rabat was from a large German Shepherd with dirty paws who had a sniff around the boat before we left to make sure we were not exporting any contraband from Morocco.
Winds were light as we motored out over the shallow Bouregreg River bar, but filled in within a few hours and by late afternoon the breeze was in the high teens to low 20 knot range and we were moving along quite nicely.
We carried on with the starboard gybe until we were more than 50 miles off the coast of Morocco so as to avoid the poorly marked drift (fishing) nets that some cruisers had reportedly gotten fouled in their props or rudders. The seas kicked up to 2-4 meters and were steepened by a knot of north-setting counter current. It was still a reasonably fast ride but by no means comfortable with the seas on our beam.
We gybed over to port the following evening just before sunset and began heading due south. The winds piped up that night to over 30 knots at times and we had some nice surfs in the 16-17 knot range with just working sails.
We gybed back on to starboard the next morning, hoping to lay the channel between Lanzarote and Graciosa Islands, but the counter current had set us a bit off our ideal gybe angle. The wind backed throughout the day and we nearly laid our landfall waypoint, but at 0330 the next morning we were still a ways off course, closing in on land and had to start the engine to hold a proper course. The barren volcanic islands resembled a moonscape, particularly when viewed through the monochromatic image of the night vision scope. Landfall was straight forward and easy and we arrived at Playa Francesca at 0530 and anchored just on the edge of the fleet of 40-odd boats that had preceded us to the Canary Islands. Although the rhumb line was about 450 miles, our actual log was 525 miles with the gybes, and we averaged 8.2 knots on the course sailed.
After a bit of rest and a bath for Moonshadow, we were ready to take part in the sundowner beach party that had become a daily event for the cruisers. Playa Francesca is a favorite of cruisers as it is a beautiful anchorage in the shadow of a volcano on the southeast side of Graciosa Island. There is provisioning in a nearby town and the protection is good against the prevailing northeasterlies.
It was great to catch up with cruising friends, new and old as we reached the end of our cruising season and began to prepare for the passage across the Atlantic Ocean. In the anchorage was Kurt and Katie Braun’s Deerfoot 74 Interlude and Steve and Linda Dashew on their FPB 83 Wind Horse. Steve took some excellent photos of Moonshadow which can be viewed at SetSail » Blog Archive » Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow
The breeze freshened and clocked to the east that night, leaving the fleet on a precarious lee shore. We were fortunate to be on the outer edge so it was easy for us to pick up the anchor and head across the channel to better and safer protection off Playa del Risco. The brown cliffs and blue waters made for some great photo ops.
After a couple of days of R & R and catching up with friends it was time for us to move on. We motored in light air all the way to Porto Calero, on the other side of Lanzarote, where we met our friend and ARC crew Charles, who had sailed down from the UK on a Swan 66 and had been looking after her while he awaited our arrival. We spent five days in Porto Calero waiting out some unsettled weather and doing some land touring before we returned to Playa Francesca for a couple more beach parties with our cruising friends.
A fresh breeze out of the east made Playa Francesca untenable but we found calm and safe anchoring across the channel at Playa del Risco. We had arrived after a no-sleep night at anchor for most of the fleet so we had the beach to ourselves that night. The wind calmed the next evening so we returned to Francesca and caught up with friends one last time before heading out to Las Palmas.
The next morning we had a nice breeze from the north so we decided to check our downwind sails. Steve and Linda on Wind Horse followed us for a bit and Steve got a bunch of nice shots of Moonshadow sailing with her spinnakers. We made it to Punta Papagayo on the south end of Lanzarote in time for happy hour on Wind Horse.
We set off at sunrise the next morning and had an excellent sail down to the bottom of Isla Fuerteventura, covering about 80 miles under sail before sunset where we took anchorage in a bight near the southwest tip, behind a narrow spit of land off the village of Puertito.
We started early the next morning and with a rolly beam sea made it across to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria where we topped off the fuel tanks and moored along the outer quay amongst the largest yachts in the ARC fleet.
We arrived in Las Palmas with nearly two weeks of time up our sleeves to take care of last minute maintenance, repair and preparations, complete our provisioning, attend a series of excellent ARC seminars and, of course, to socialize with other ARC sailors at daily pre-rally happy hours, parties and crew dinners.
The start of the 25th annual ARC Rally from Las Palmas to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia (approximately 2700 nautical miles) is at 1300 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.

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Rabat and Salé, Morocco

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The Kasbah of Rabat

The weather forecast called fresh easterly for the Strait of Gibraltar, we tossed off the lines that attached Moonshadow to the Queensway Quay Marina in Gibraltar Town.  By the time we were out of the Bay of Algeciras, we had 20 to 30 knots on our backs, helping to slingshot us out into the Atlantic Ocean against the 2 knot current flooding into the Mediterranean Sea.

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Our last view of “the Rock” as we head through the Strait to the Atlantic Ocean

Our first gybe took us across the commercial shipping lanes at a fairly obtuse angle.  We gybed onto starboard close to the Moroccan coast where we caught a nice 4 kg. mackerel tuna.  As the strait narrowed, the wind against tide effect increased and we encountered some very rough patches in the water.  A couple more gybes kept us to the south of the shipping lanes until the strait opened up into the Atlantic Ocean.  The Atlantic welcomed Moonshadow back into her waters for the first time in 15 years with calmer seas and lighter breezes. 

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In the Strait of Gibralter we had to dodge mega container ships like this that can carry up to 15,000 20-foot container equivalents (TEU’s)

The rest of our overnight passage to the capital city of Rabat in Morocco was uneventful and we arrived a few hours before high tide.  Two other arriving boats were waiting for the pilot to escort them to the Bouregreg Marina a mile up the river.  With a spring tide and very little swell, the pilots guided us up to the Customs dock without incident.  The shallowest we saw was 4.7 meters over the first bar, but the depth sounder went crazy after we crossed the bar into water that was muddy and full of debris.

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The bar at Rabat looks fine here, but waves break at the entrance when the swell builds up in the north Atlantic

Shortly after the three yachts rafted up to the short Customs dock, we were boarded by a group of very polite and smartly dressed officials who processed our entry paperwork in about a half an hour.  There was not even the hint of baksheesh (bribes or tips) and the check-in was a delightful experience.   That is till the large German shepherd drug sniffer dog and his handler showed up for the final inspection of our yacht.  The dog had big hard claws and was hyperactive, but after a quick sniff around the cabin, he was off to the next boat.

Bouregreg Marina is on the Salé side of the Bouregreg River.  It is a new facility with all the usual amenities.  A few trendy cafes and restaurants have sprung up along the quay and more are planned as part of a large residential/commercial waterfront complex.  Salé is, however, a very old and fundamental Islamic enclave which is intolerant of many western ways, so none of the establishments in the marina sell alcoholic beverages.

We set out on foot early the next morning to explore the medina, or old walled city, of Salé.  Walking through the bab (gate) was like being transported back in time a thousand years. Other than a few cars and ATM’s, mod-cons are almost non-existent.  We found the central market and the Grand Mosque and then got lost for a few hours in the labyrinth of narrow pedestrian-only streets.  Salé does not see many tourists so we were noticed but not harassed in any way.  We were fascinated to observe people going about the business of life much as it has been done for centuries, watching people doing things by hand the old fashioned way.

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Daily life in the Medina at Sale

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A shoe merchant displaying the very latest styles.  Notice all the gold pointy ones in the back.

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The ornate entrance to the Grand Mosque in Sale

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A rather interesting character we spotted in Sale

We were welcomed to Bouregreg that evening with a cruiser’s happy hour aboard Tahane Lee by Phil and Corelle, where we met and socialized with the other transient cruisers who were on stopover in Rabat.

The next morning we headed over to the Rabat side of the river to see a bit of the capital city.

We started first in the Kasbah, a quiet old residential enclave enclosed in what was once the ribat (fortress) that guarded the entry to the port.  We wandered around the narrow streets enjoying the beautiful doors and interesting homes and took in the old Andalusian Cathedral and its adjoining gardens.

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The entrance to the Kasbah in Rabat
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A quiet back street in the Kasbah

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The Andalusian Cathedral in the Kasbah

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Musical instruments for sale in the Kasbah

The restaurant that we had hoped to visit for lunch was closed but a man guided us to another place that occupied an ornate old home, which was not even marked by a sign.  We enjoyed an excellent tajine (clay pot stew) in the enchanting atmosphere.

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The courtyard of an old Rabat home converted to a restaurant

The afternoon was spent afternoon shopping in the medina of Rabat where we found some excellent bargains on locally made goods. Heavily laden with our purchases, we hired an oarsman to take us back across the Bouregreg River to the marina.  We enjoyed another tajine that evening ashore with the Windies.

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Shopping is excellent in the medina of Rabat

A fresh northeasterly was forecast, which would give us a fast ride down to the Isla Graciosa in the Canary Islands, situated about 465 miles to the southwest of Rabat.  As much as we enjoyed the people, atmosphere and food of Morocco, we decided to take advantage of the excellent weather window and head out.

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The Bouregreg River is home to fisherman as well as recreational boaters

We’ll leave you with a series of photos we shot of some of the beautiful doors in the Kasbah of Rabat and in Sale.

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The date above this door said “1292″

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The entrance to a 12th century university in Sale

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Spain: Ronda, Seville and Cádiz


In the village of Ronda

With Moonshadow snug in the Queensway Quay Marina in Gibraltar, the Windies and us set off in a hire car to see a bit of inland Spain. 

After getting our LPG bottle filled by Dirk in Estepona (see the previous posting for more info), a few miles up the coast from Gibraltar, we then headed an hour’s drive inland to Ronda, one of the “pueblos blancos” or white villages in the mountains above the Mediterranean coast.

Ronda is unique in that the village sits on the top of a plateau surrounded by cliffs that plunge into the fertile farm lands below.  Another interesting feature is the deep gorge that cuts through the middle of the town.  An old stone arch bridge connects the two halves of the village.  The bridge is called Puente Nuevo or “new bridge.”  If that was “new” we wonder what they consider old.


This gorge cuts through the center of the village


The Puente Nuevo or new bridge connecting the two parts of the village

We had lunch near the main plaza and enjoyed an afternoon wandering around the narrow streets and perusing the artisan shops of this quaint and picturesque old village.


Horses are still used for transport in the old village of Ronda

The roads and highways of Spain are excellent and driving is easy-until you get to an old city like Seville.  Negotiating the labyrinth of narrow one way streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz in old Seville was definitely a challenge for the novice tourist.  We eventually found our hotel, an excellent place rated at two stars that could have passed for three-and-a-half.  Even though parking was less than 200 meters away, they sent an attendant to guide me to the garage, which involved at least a half dozen turns in each direction and putting the car into a large elevator to get it down to the allotted space in the basement.
Our hotel was in the middle of the action.  The owner gave us a small map with his recommendations for a number of local tapas bars.  After refreshing we all set out on a “tapas crawl.” 


The first spot was a small local spot that featured live Spanish guitar music, a massive bull’s head on the wall, good tapas and friendly people.


Annie and Merima enjoy tapas and Spanish guitar under the bull in Seville

Tapas stop number two, a few blocks away, was more like a cava with old wooden wine vats lining the walls.  Good wine, tapas and atmosphere, but the staff were a bit brusque so we moved on fairly soon.  The third and best spot was a bustling joint so we decided to order medium sized tapas, thinking the crowds must be indicative of the food quality.  This was definitely the case and the plates were huge, ruining our appetite for any more tapas that evening.

The thirst not yet quenched, the crawl continued to a couple of other places in the neighborhood, taking us by the beautifully lit 16th century main cathedral.  Seville’s cathedral is one of the largest in the world and its stunning bell tower is set on top of what was the minaret attached to the mosque which occupied the site during the era of Islamic rule.


The Cathedral of Seville at night

We set out early the next morning to take in a few of the sights of Seville.  A short walk from the hotel was the Alcázar.  We arrived at opening time and spent a few hours wandering around the royal palace’s sprawling complex of halls and gardens before the tour buses and crowds arrived.  Built over 11 centuries, the architectural detail is varied as it is absolutely exquisite.


The Alcazar


The gardens in the Alcazar


Inner courtyard around living quarters at the Alcazar


Detail of the arches surrounding the courtyard


The women’s bath


A fountain in the garden


A short walk from the Alcázar is the Seville Cathedral where Christopher Columbus is supposedly entombed.  We went into the main chapel and then walked up the ramp to the top of the bell tower where we enjoyed a commanding 360 degree of Seville.  After almost a full day of sight seeing, we hopped in the car and drove a couple hours over to the Atlantic coast and the city of Cádiz. 


The massive pipe organ in the Cathedral of Seville

Old Cádiz is situated at the tip of a long narrow peninsula.  It is quite a compact city and one could easily walk from one side to the other in 20-30 minutes.  It is old and elegant with beautiful plazas, parks and fashionable pedestrian-only shopping areas.

Our hotel was very central, but well hidden on a bollard-protected plaza.  It was rated at three-star, but we would have rated it at about half that.  Hotel parking was a convenient (not!) 10 minute walk from the hotel in a public garage.

We arrived in time to freshen up and headed to an excellent nearby tapas bar for happy hour.  It was a very rustic sort of place, oozing with atmosphere that had patas de jamón (Iberian ham legs), a local favorite, hanging from the ceiling over the bar tables.  A little upside-down umbrella inserted into the very bottom caught any fat dripping from the cured meat.


Annie and Liam enjoying tapas under the ham legs

Around 9 pm we took a short walk to a place called La Cava.  La Cava is a well known local tapas bar that puts on an excellent Flamenco show a few times a week.  The food was good, the sangria free flowing and excellent, and the dancing was superb.  It is amazing the sound that came from a lone guitar, one singer and four sets of clapping hands and two clicking heels.

Jesus Barrios Collante singing at La Cava


The guitarist looks calm but look at his hand

Three dancers, two female and one male, performed a couple hours of mesmerizing flamenco to a packed and enthusiastic house.


This young man workd up a real sweat during his performance




And the ladies swirled and glowed

We spent the next morning and early afternoon exploring old Cádiz on foot, taking in the recently renovated central market, some of the shopping lanes and the waterfront Parque del Genovés before enjoying a tapas lunch on the plaza by our hotel.


A narrow shopping street in old Cadiz


The seafood section of the central market was particularly impressive


Patas de jamon (ham legs) are popular tapas treats


The Parque del Genovese in Cadiz

After lunch we headed back to Gibralter, arriving in time for dinner at our favorite pub in Irish Town.


The ubiquitous Spanish bull can be spotted on hills in the countryside


And windmills are still to be seen, albeit updated a bit from the days of Don Quixote










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“The Rock” viewed from the anchorage at La Linea 

The Rock of Gibraltar began to show its outline through the overcast from a range of about ten miles.  We had lifted the anchor earlier that morning just as a brilliant red sun breached the horizon and had already motored more than 40 miles in dead calm waters from the Spanish coastal town of Torremolinos. 

We watched as an endless stream of shipping traffic passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on their way to or from the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea.  We hugged the shoreline off the southern tip of “the Rock” to stay well clear of the shipping lane as we made our way into the Bahia de Algeciras. 

A long spell of “settled” weather meant that we had motored or motor-sailed most of the last 400 miles since we had reached Ibiza so we had burnt up quite a bit of dinosaur juice.  Diesel prices in Gibraltar are substantially less than in Spain, so we stopped at the fuel dock at Marina Bay to top up our tanks.  Three fuel vendors share a long piece of bulkhead and each had an attendant trying to hawk us in to their own pumps.  We opted for the first outfit, Cepsa, who was reported to have the lowest prices of the three.

After fueling, we made our way past the Gibraltar airport runway, giving it a wide berth should a plane come in low on final approach.  Gibraltar’s airport runs east/west bisecting the narrow peninsula just south of the border with Spain and protrudes out into Bahia del Algeciras.  We dropped the pick behind the protection of the breakwater at La Lìnea for the evening where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Rock.

The next morning we moved over to the Queensway Quay Marina adjacent to the town of Gibraltar.  It is one of the few places in the Med where marinas are still reasonably priced, costing less than a third of most comparable marinas in Spain, Italy and France.  We tied up just before a heavy rain started to dump and I managed to rinse off the decks so we could collect some of the rainwater.  If berthing is cheap, the charge for water is 1 pence Gibralter (about 1.6 US cents) per liter.  By the next morning, Moonshadow was squeaky clean and the water tanks were overflowing.

The Queensway Quay Marina

We took a stroll through the town of Gibraltar and on the way back stopped into the huge supermarket called Morrisons, part of the large chain from the U.K.  They cater to the British living in the Colony of Gibraltar and we found many things we hadn’t seen in awhile, including some favorites like ginger nuts (a.k.a. ginger snaps) and New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  Food prices were a tad on the high side compared to those at Carrefour in Spain but we did find exceptional prices on spirits in town at a number of duty free type shops lining the main street.

Main Street, Gibraltar Town

Gibraltar town is set at the foot of the rock and is rather compact.  Most of the streets are barely wide enough for one car and only a few are two way.  Most of the town’s people live in apartments and the only detached homes we saw were a ways out of town on the side of the rock. One can easily walk from one end of town to the other in half an hour and from the base of the rock to the waterfront in five minutes.  Most of the action takes place along a long meandering pedestrian-only street, appropriately called Main Street, which runs the length of town.  The predominant architecture is 18th to 19th century British with a few bits remaining from before or added after.  Because of Gibraltar’s history as a strategic military strong hold, there are plenty of walls, bastions, fortifications and old government buildings remaining.  Old cannons can be found everywhere.

Some of the old fortifications have been turned into gardens

Old cannons are everywhere but this one is a beauty

Most of the residents are British ex-pats or Spaniards, as are most of the tourists.  The establishments in town are typically pubs offering casual “pub grub” type meals. 

One clear afternoon we tried to catch the cable car (aerial tram) to the top of the Rock.  The queue for tickets was long and the wait for the cable car even longer.  We decided to take advantage of the nice weather, get a bit of exercise and walk to the top.  An hour later we had reached the terminus of the cable car in the saddle of the Rock and were amongst a crowd of people and a horde of Barbary Coast Apes.  The people were looking at the apes and the apes were mostly ignoring the people and enjoying the view of the water or napping. 

A Barbary Coast Ape enjoying the view of the Spanish coast from the Rock 

In contrast to the feisty macaques we had encountered in Southeast Asia, these relatives were very subdued and seemed to be very comfortable when they were approached by humans. We were warned not to touch them, but we did see a few tour guides picking up some of the little ones.  The only incident we saw was one of the apes trying to steal a fanny pack off one of the women in a group of tourists.

The ape on the left was picking nits off its partner-then eating them. The Atlas mountains of Morocco appear upper right

The visibility was excellent and the views from the Rock were magnificent.  We could easily see 50 miles up the Mediterranean coast of Spain and across the Strait of Gibraltar to make out the profile of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. 

Taking a shorter and steeper route back down, 45 minutes later we ended up more or less in the middle of town and wound our way through narrow residential streets back to the marina.

View of Gibraltar Town from the Rock.  The airport runway is right of center

Merima taking the stairs down from the top of the Rock

Spanish gas companies will not fill any foreign LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas for the stove) bottles.  Gibraltar will not fill any gas bottles whatsoever and import all their gas from Spain.  As a result we found ourselves down near the bottom of our reserve bottle and in need of refills.  Numerous calls and an email to the guy recommended by the marina were not returned.  We had heard from some cruiser friends about a fellow named Dirk located up on the coast of Spain in the town of Estepona, about 30 miles from Gibraltar, who will fill any type of bottles.  Unfortunately Dirk doesn’t offer delivery service, so we had to hire a car to take our tanks to him.  If Dirk was a bit out of the way, he was fast, friendly, helpful and reasonably priced.  If you come to Gibraltar and need LPG, we would recommend you contact Dirk in Spain on 616 96 94 96 or 644 135 071.

Rental cars are much cheaper in Spain than in Gibraltar.  If you happen to be staying in Gibraltar, you simply walk to one of a half dozen agencies located just across the border. We booked on line at www.economycarrentals and saved about 50%.  A few hundred meters before you cross the border into Spain, you must cross the runway to Gibraltar Airport, which bisects the peninsula from the Med to the Bay of Algeciras.  A crossing gate, similar to those used at railway crossings, holds car/bike/foot traffic when a plane is taking off or landing.  Other than long queues of cars going in to and out of Gibraltar during rush hour, crossing the border is a simple affair that involves little more than waving your passport at an uninterested official at the border.

The border of Spain is just across the Gibraltar Airport runway

The return trip to Gibraltar is a bit more scenic

We actually rented the car for four days, and joined by the Windies, we did some inland touring to the lovely mountain village of Ronda and the old Spanish cities of Seville and Cadiz.  We’ll have more on the road trip in the next posting.


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Cartagena and the Mainland Coast of Spain

Isla del Esparto off the east coast of Ibiza

We departed Sant Antoni de Portmany on the Island of Ibiza early in the afternoon, attempting to time our passage so we would make landfall in Cartagena, on the mainland coast of Spain, after sunrise.  It was late in the season and the sun rises at nearly 0830 hours this time of the year-good if you are a night owl, but not so if you like to have a few hours of sunlight before noon.

The weather forecast indicated that we would have an easy and comfortable passage but with little wind and we ended up motor-sailing for 20 out of 22 hours.

As we headed southwest from Ibiza, we had a stunning view of Isla del Esparto, which lies just off its west coast, on our port side.  A few hours later we were treated to a brilliant red sunset which revealed the jagged outline the Sierra Nevada Mountains of mainland Spain.

Sunset off the mainland coast of Spain

Late that evening, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian and Moonshadow once again entered the western hemisphere after having spent the last eleven years in the eastern half of the globe.

The moment we crossed the Greenwich Meridian into the western hemisphere

We arrived at Marina Port Cartagena roughly as planned at around 0900 and gave Moonshadow a long-overdue bubble bath.  It had been nearly six weeks since we had used our dock lines.

Marina Port Cartagena, like much of the waterfront, is work in progress.  Cartagena is in the process of shifting from a military installation to a tourist town highlighting its archeological and historical sites.  The broad malecón, or waterfront promenade, when it is completed, will feature a cruise ship terminal, a couple of marinas, a convention center, a museum and a number of cafes and restaurants.

This Spanish submarine, built in 1895, is displayed on the malecón in Cartagena

We took a walk into the adjacent old quarter of town where a long and narrow pedestrian-only street meanders through beautifully restored old buildings.  At street level they are lined with upscale shops, cafes and bars. As the sun fell lower, Cartagenos came out for their evening walk, drink or meal, and children played with each other in the plazas.  We nipped into a local tapas bar for a light meal before the Spaniards, who like to dine well past 8pm, had filled the place.

This plaza leads to the old quarter of Cartagena

The locals enjoy a stroll in the pedestrian-only street of Cartagena

Beautifully restored buildings line the streets and plazas of Cartagena’s old quarter

We spent a few days and evenings hanging out in Cartagena waiting for a weather window that would give us reasonable conditions to head west to Gibraltar while catching up on some maintenance, repairs and provisioning.

I was particularly impressed with the local chandler who helped me get an alternator bracket repaired.  When I asked him where I could find a stainless steel welder, he asked if I had a car.  When I told him I was on foot, he said “leave it with me and come back tomorrow at 1100.”  I returned the next day to pick up the bracket.  The welder had done an excellent job and the cost for the charge was just €8 (about US $10).

Provisioning was made easy at the local Carrefour-about 20 minutes walk from the marina-as they offered free delivery right down to the dock.

We enjoyed an excellent seafood meal with the Annie and Liam, a.k.a. “the Windies” at a local seafood restaurant located near the marina and adjacent to the local fishing boat harbor.

The prevailing winds for the western Mediterranean are generally west to northwest at this time of year, so with a period of relative calm in the forecast, we decided to make a dash for Gibraltar, which lay about 250 miles to the west. 

We divided the trip up into three day hops, anchoring for the night in Puerto Almerimar the first night after covering 120 miles.  The next day we covered another 83 miles and anchored just off the town of Torremolinos. 

The last day of the journey we picked up the anchor to an incredible red sunrise.  The sea was dead calm most of the way to Gibraltar, with the oily smooth water broken occasionally by dolphins breaching the surface to take a breath or play.

Dead calm waters on the approach to Gibraltar

About ten miles out, the Rock of Gibraltar began to appear through the overcast.  Interestingly, the profile of “the Rock” that most people come to recognize is actually seen from well inside the Bahia de Algeciras and not from the Med or the Strait of Gibraltar. 

It wasn’t till we had dropped anchor in La Lìnea, the Spanish border town just north of Gibraltar, that we actually recognized it as the Rock of Gibraltar.



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