Entering Africa

mosqueWe left the port of Sines in southern Portugal with high hopes of adventure as we set off for the passage away from Europe towards a new continent. The winds seemed to take their lead from our own elation and we were soon skimming across the Atlantic Ocean at an exhilarating seven knots with the rocky coast or Portugal rapidly diminishing in our wake. Dolphins leaped at our bow and the occasional leatherback turtle peered at us from the choppy seas.


After only two days at sea, our second dawn saw the sun rising above the hazy horizon which soon revealed the low hills of Morocco and the harbour of Mohammedia. By lunch time we were tied up in a tight little harbour surrounded by rafts of slightly dodgy fishing boats and were attended by a swarm of well-wishing locals all shouting enthusiastic recommendations on how to tie our lines to the dock.  In the background the wailing of a Muslim call to prayer pierced the general clamour of the harbour and the warm breeze carried exotic smells. Soon we had the customs and immigration clambering (somewhat unsteadily) on board and beginning the arduous round of paper-work.


sniffing-a-flowerOnce we had signed all the required forms, had our passports stamped and (with some trepidation) handed over all our ships documents for the duration of our stay, we were free to explore our first stop in Africa. With only two days of sailing we have truly arrived in a different planet. The warm climate has nurtured a profusion of green growth – the alleys are lined with palms and bright flowers and every spare patch of ground seems to play out a vegetative battle for space ending in a leafy profusions. Cats wander everywhere, leaping out of bins at the most unexpected moments and harassing enthusiastic puppies. Winding streets make a maze through the old medina where stalls of exotic wares dazzle the eyes cat-attackand the prominent minaret of the local mosque is the only landmark. Folk dressed in traditional veils and robes mix freely with more liberal elements with modern clothes and cheeky children take full advantage of the fact that I didn’t know the work for “no” in Arabic – one child climbed all over me and had a good attempt at pulling poor old Sparrows tails off! Seems they are not used to dogs and scruffy sailors in these parts …

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