Trapped in Morocco

The day to never forget started with a beautiful sunrise.  As the red, then orange then yellow orb cast its glow on this arid North African landscape, little did I realize this day would be one never forgotten.

We went about our normal chores. After being in Europe for over two years, Dauntless has gotten that weathered, experienced look, that says, look out, here I come. Admittedly, the new paint scheme helps in that regard.  Two years ago, every minute was a scramble to get something done, and then a half minute to undo what was just done, and another few minutes to do it again.

Moroccan Friends

Moroccan Friends

Dauntless in Rabat

Dauntless in Rabat

Now, those novice jitters are gone.  Spares, parts, and all the other crap that I can’t throw away is carefully stored in containers in the engine room.  The virtual computerized inventory is all done.  Stored in the virtual closet.

Dauntless is lying heavy in the water.  Full of fuel, water, but unlike last time, with just enough food to last a family in Africa about 38 days, instead of the 400 day supply we left New England with two years ago.

So, who could have realized an innocent remark to a passing stranger would matter?

The Marina Bouregreg is a very nice marina.  Situated on the River Oued Bou Regreg in the town of Sale, the capitol city of Rabat is just across the river.  Rumor has it that the royal family has some boats in this marina, so security is all over, but very friendly and helpful.  As marinas go, it’s by far one of the best we have been in.

So just a day after arriving, now two weeks ago, as I ambled back to our beautiful Kadey Krogen, now going on a young, but frisky 28 years old, I spotted a group of ladies also admiring her.

It’s not often one sees a boat in Europe flying the Stars and Stripes and I always like flying a large courtesy flag, so I can fly a large American flag just below.  I would not want to offend the locals.  In spite of the common belief in the USA, I have yet to be in a place where Americans are not admired.  There are probably 10,000 pictures of Dauntless and her two American flags taken over just the last two years.

Now they girls turned out to be students at the University also taking pictures of Dauntless. After a few words it was clear that their English was very, very good.

One thing led to another and next thing we knew, we were all talking about America and Morocco in the salon of Dauntless.  It was a large group, 4 girls and the 4 of us, Larry, my T-3 friend, Pierre Jean (PJ) a KK wannabe from Paris, Micah, my fake nephew and myself.  An eclectic group.  PJ and Larry were leaving to go back to their respective haunts, while Micah was going to Fez, a beautiful city a few hundred miles from the coast.

So, as we said our goodbyes to the students, their insistence that they make us a Moroccan dinner before leaving for the Canaries was touching. And who can say no to a group of pretty ladies; not I.  A date was set and we said our goodbyes.

The day before our tentative dinner,  we re-affirmed the arrangements.

It was a wonderful dinner.  We really felt appreciated that these 4 Moroccans would go to such an effort of cooking all day just for us Americans.

The plan was to leave two days later, on the 24th.

But we couldn’t. the Port was closed!  Nervously we wondered, why was the port closed?

Reassured by the pilots that the port would be opened the next day, we went about doing the last-minute preparations.  Micah and I both decided to put on our sea-sickness patch, as it seemed two of the four days needed to get to the Canaries would not be very pleasant.  I also decided that Madeira was an acceptable destination also.  A few hundred miles north of the Canaries, it would increase the options on our route based on the actually winds and seas.

This situation reminded me of my crossing of the North Sea last September.  I ended up taking a weather window that was only 2 days of the four needed.  Turned out OK. As fall becomes winter, one’s options get worse not better.  So, I felt this was doable.

The plan was that for us to even have two good days, we needed to be 250 miles west of the coast, then as the winds veer to the northwest, we could head west-southwest to Madeira or south southwest to the Canaries.  The paravanes are most effective in a beam sea. Winds were forecast to be 15 to 20 behind the front (from the NW).   My Rule of Thumb is to ALWAYS assume the winds will be 50% stronger and only within a 90-degree arc of the stated direction.

Thus, worse case, these NW winds could end up 270° at 30 knots.  If that happened, then we head due south.  It wouldn’t be fun, but I’ve seen worse.

I slept fitfully; not well at all.  Finally, in the middle of the night, I decided we were not going.

The problem, my fear?  There was a forecast strip of high winds from the southwest just off the coast.  My plan depended on getting west of those winds before they got strong, as they were forecast to get up to 40 knots.  If in the first 24 hours of leaving, if we encountered SW winds at 15 to 20 knots, no problem, we head NW and can turn SW as the winds change.

But I was ignoring my own rule of thumb.  What would happen if the winds were 260° at 25 knots?  I’d have to go virtually due north, which would put me back in Rota in three days!

Or even worse, the first 24 hours goes as planned, we are now 125 miles from the coast, but the strong wind band sets up also further west. Thus 40 knot southwesterly winds.  We’d be back in Gibraltar before anyone could say, what the fuck just happened.  And worse, it would not be a fun ride.

When one is in the middle of the Atlantic, you take what Mother Nature gives you and are grateful for it.  If you complain, or even look at her the wrong way, she’ll show you very quickly that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse.

That morning, as I went to talk to the pilots (all boats are guided into the harbor and marina on a 24/7 basis), they assured me that the harbor was now open, and he added that I would have no problem since I have a sturdy boat. That’s certainly true, but I told them I had decided to wait out this coming storm in port, rather than at sea.

Strong winds off the coast trapped us here for anther few days.  We’ll get out this weekend.  Saturday is still unsettled, but Monday and Tuesday, look good.

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Richard on Dauntless, currently in Rabat, Morocco

Forecast winds off the African Coast

Forecast winds off the African Coast

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