Saturday, October 12, 2013

It's About Time

2013 10 11
Marina Bouregreg, Sale, Morocco

Every French Designed Capital City has a Champs Elysee Clone:
a beautiful wide boulevard, palm lined flanked with
shops and cafes

For our first five days in Morocco our clocks and watches were an hour out of sync with the rest of Morocco.  This was not our fault. I blame it on the arrogance of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.  Here is how it came upon us:

Ramadan, a period of special religious observance in the Mohammedan religion, loosely akin to Christians' Lent, requires that the faithful fast during daylight hours.  No food, no water.  This year Ramadan, which is a moveable observance, fell in the dead heat of summer.  

King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, and his advisors knew the heavy toll that would be exacted from the population during Ramadan.  The King, Mohammed V, did what he could to alleviate suffering.
He suspended Daylight Savings Time in the Kingdom for the duration of Ramadan.  All during Ramadan the people could maintain strict observance during a working day that held one hour less daylight than would otherwise be the case.  It shortened the time his subjects need endure the privation of Ramadan.

A pretty decent act.  
One of the Loyal Subjects.  Child of the Sale Souk
She saw me taking pictures with my tablet and was curious.
I took one of her and she squealed with delight when she saw it.

However Morocco is an economy that needs the benefits normally attributed to Daylight Savings Time.  Ramadan being over, King Mohammed then extended DST to include the month of October.  Seems reasonable enough but...

The Loyal Subject lives with her parents, sister and brother
in these quarters, third door on the left.
We cruisers all rely on our computers and their automatic time and date functions to keep track of where we are and what time it is.  Well our computer programs, apple and microsoft and google all got. and still get, the time wrong in Morocco.  Every computer on board every boat is an hour out.  And will be until the end of October.

At first there were comical coincidences that masked our error and lulled us into the belief that there was no problem.  We caught the train to Casa at the time the schedule said.  Or so we thought.  Trains to Casa run every hour so we were actually catching the 0700 train when we thought we were catching the 0800.  

This explains the somewhat exasperated look on the conductor's face when he checked our tickets.  Tickets are issues for a specific train, denominated by time of departure and we were unwittingly on the wrong train.  Polite to a fault the Moroccan officials realized there was room enough on the train and said nothing to the idiot tourists who got on the wrong train.  

We missed trains, showed up early for doctor's appointments and were generally irresponsible until we figured it out.  Than we all had a good laugh.  

You Know You are Morocco 'Cause of All the
Big Golden Ms.
McDonalds ad on the new tram the M bracketing
a Moroccan woman in traditional dress 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sailing to Rabat; A Tale of Non Existent Hazards

2013 10 02
Bouregreg Marina, Sale, Morocco

It only looks scary.  Easy entry if you follow the simple rules.
Depths are in Feet.  Look Just above and Below the word Puerto in
Puerto de Rabat
Prior to setting sail for Rabat in Morocco we were regaled with concerns of other sailors who had been or who had friends who had been to this much maligned port.  It gave us pause.  Luckily for us we decided to visit anyway.  Our experience suggests that the concerns are misfounded.  There is no conceivable reason not to visit Morocco at Rabat and many reasons you should.

The Breakwater Extending
Southward at Rio Bouregreg
A summary:

1.  We found no fishing net hazard along the coast,

2.  The river you must negotiate to get to the marina has been dredged and the dredging seems to be continuous.  Entry is controlled by the marina and the marina makes a pilot boat available to ensure sailboats do not run afou.

Most boaters think, and we agree, it is a good idea to time your arrival for a rising tide.  Great planning but I rarely arrive at a destination on the day I plan let alone the exact hour.  Boats have been brought up the river in all conditions, depending on their keel depth and motoring capacity.   The marina gives good advice to everyone.  If entry is impossible they will tell you so and direct you to Mohammedia, about thirty miles south, where the entry is protected.

In the end result entry is as easy as that of any marina you enter for the very first time,

3.  The officials here are efficient, friendly and even humorous.  No corruption, no baksheesh, no arbitrary barking of orders, just a friendly welcome.  Reports to the contrary are just not fact based and raise concerns about the veracity of people making the reports.

Here are the details of our trip:

The sail from La Linea in Spain to Rabat, Morocco was boisterous and the first twelve hours was undertaken in winds of 35 G 40.  A fast twelve hours.

We had been warned of vast networks of fishing nets rendering the coast nearly impassible.  Those nets did not exist, not where we sailed anyway.

No Fishing Net Hazard Found

We travelled two miles offshore the entire journey to Rabat.  In that distance we encountered one fishing net, well marked and easily avoided.  There were many fishing boats sailing late into the night but grouped mainly around the main fishing ports, again marked and easily avoided.

Our travelling companions travelled about five miles off the Moroccan coast and both caught nets in their keels or, worse for one, his saildrive.

It might have just been luck that kept us out of harms way but it also be that travelling two miles off the land avoids most fishing nets.  We assume the latter.

Once in the River You will find a few weirs like this one
which act to protect riverine areas and beaches
full of swimmers

One of the Colourful Fishing Boats
you will pass.

One of the River Hazards:
Traditional Ferry piloted by a standing man with two oars.
This guy got between us and the Pilot Boat.
You sit and wait politely: guy's making a living after all

Contact Was Immediate on FIrst Call to the Marina

Although we planned arrival at Rabat for an hour or two before high tide we arrived an hour and a bit after low.  We also arrived a day late but who is counting.

 About a mile from the entrance to the river, achieved through 

OK Maybe There Were a Few Hairy Bits
Or Maybe I just worry too much.
two big breakwaters, we called Marina Bouregreg on VHF channel 10 and requested a pilot boat.  It was dispensed immediately and it appeared within fifteen minutes.  Verifying our keel depth the pilot lead us to customs.

Some boats have reported that marina did not answer their calls.  This has not been the experience of any boat we have spoken to while here at the marina and it is not our experience.

No Bar at Rabat

Although the marina Bouregreg had assured us the river leading to their berths had been dredged
dredged we were cautious.  There was no need.  Arriving at the mouth of the Rio Bouregreg about an hour and a half after low tide we never saw less than eleven feet of water - while following the pilot boat.  We strongly recommend following the pilot boat.

Pleasant Efficient Officials

Here is the Dredging Machine Moored
on the Rabat Sideof the River
We had read some older unflattering reports about officials in Rabat.  Not true.  The police and customs guys were helpful, friendly and in good humour.  No hint of corruption of any kind.  The experience was so pleasant as to call into question the veracity of the reporters.

And on this I do not accept that times have changed.  We have entered Morocco before and it has always been friendly and corruption free although not always so efficient as it was at Rabat.

The Avoidable Possibility of a Pooping in Easterly Swell

Our charts show the depth of the water inside the breakwater to be 0.5 feet.  There are two problems here: First, half a foot of water is not much when your boat draws 5 feet and secondly the water immediately oceanside of the shall entrance is very deep.  One skipper entered the breakwater to wait for the pilot boat.  He dropped his sails and then he dropped his guard and went below.  An errant wave struck the sharply shallowing river entrance, rose to breaking wave and pooped the man's  boat causing serious damage.  Bad luck to be sure but no black mark on Rabat.

Oh, for those who wrote to ask how you avoid the hazard I suggest when you arrive at Rabat you wait well outside the breakwater in deep water.  That way you need not fear the occasional errant wave.  This is no criticism of the poor guy who suffered damage.  He had no reason to expect there would be any unusual wave pattern  and he knew the harbour well. Sometimes bad things happen.

Once you are at the marina you tie up at the fuel dock and clear customs and immigration.  This is effortless but there are a lot of forms.  The officials help with this.

Once tied up you find yourself in a modern bustling political capital city of a thriving country.  Everyone is working, building, studying, learning, building, moving materials,  After some time spent in the south of Europe it is just so refreshing.

Because you are in a capital city you have access to unparalleled communications and transportation resources.  You can see all of Morocco from here.  More on this later.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Out of the Crashing First World Into the Emerging Second: Great to be in Morocco

2013 10 05
Marina Bouregreg, Sale, Morocco

What is the first thing you do when you pull into the marina in Morocco after 34 hours of nonstop sailing?  Well if you travel with the Budget Committee you haggle for swordfish at the market.

First you Haggle.  This is one of my wife's purposes in life.  The poor vendor is making his final appeal to Burger who remains impassive knowing full well Connie has him in a pair of visegrips.

Then the fish is cut.  Catch the cigarette in the corner of the mouth.  A classic, you gotta admit.

And Weighed.  Not a single spark lost from the cigarette.

Finally and only after the weighing is the swordfish trimmed and portioned.  Burger in the foreground bought two filets from the BC.  I think our fish was free.

And fresh.  It has to be.  No one has refrigeration.

Knowing What Constitutes a Win

2013 10 05
Marina Bouregreg, Sale, Morocco

For years now it has been obvious aboard Meredith that what seems like a loss or a failure at first instance is so often a win if you have the right perspective.  Now this is not a counsel of always looking on the bright side of life, that is just pathetic, although quite humorous when done by Monty Python. 

It is just that a little perspective rapidly changes a loss to a win.  Our recent experience stands as an example.

Thirteen days ago I lost the sight in my left eye.  Connie and I were walking around Casablanca with friends when large dark circles first appeared and then totally obscured my vision.  It turned out that I had a detached retina in that eye, a correctable problem but one which needed immediate expert attention if sight were to be preserved.

Knowing not what was wrong, only that it was something serious, we went in search of an ophthalmologist.  Luckily our boat was docked in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco.  Services were available that may not have been at Wahim's Saharan Tent Park.  

Knowing no one in the city we went first to the toniest pharmacy we could find and asked for a recommendation for an ophthalmologist.  That in hand, and willingly given by the pharmacist, we headed for the most expensive looking optician shop we could find and repeated our request.  We had a match on the recommendation and an appointment was made for the following day.  How lucky for us there was an opening that soon.

After being examined by the ophthalmologist the man gave the diagnosis: detached retina. He did not practice retinal surgery but referred us with urgency to a colleague who did.  This colleague saw us at once.  She scheduled surgery at once.    Seeing her on Thursday she arranged surgery for the following Wednesday, the soonest she could arrange delivery of the materials she needed to repair the detachment.  This woman Dr. Nadia Essakalli, had experience, skills and clout.  How lucky for us.

Dr. Essakallialso prescribed a strict and very uncomfortable position in which I had to lie continuously for the entire time I was out of her office.  This position actually helped correct the displacement of the retina and prevented worsening of the condition. More than unpleasant it was near hell in the heat of Morocco to lie still with my head blocked by two pillows and the rest of me immobile, but it was a lot better than going blind.  Prescribed early enough further damage to the eye was prevented and the "position" actually restored some vision.  Once again, luck was on my side.  

The clinique where the surgery was peformed was only one block from the marina.  

Dr. Essakalli's office where all examinations were performed was a hundred feet from her tram stop, our marina was a hundred meters from ours. No change in trams required.  Lucky?  You have no idea when your overtaxed wife is dragging her one eyed dopey husband around a foreign city.

A small hitch arose when the necessary materials were not delivered in time and surgery was delayed one day.  This was used by Dr. Essakali to take more extensive maps of the retina and macula and better plan the re attachment.

With that delay surgery was on schedule, fast and efficient.  A three hour operation followed by a day in the private clinique and I am now home.  

The surgeon was first rate and personable.  And boy was she competent.  She is Paris trained, a full professor of Opthalmology at the King Muhammed V/VI University at Rabat and has performed retinal surgery since 1996.  I think she may have introduced the procedures to Morocco.

The clinic where surgery was conducted was staffed with pleasant efficient helpful individuals who smiled every time they entered my private room.

The initial results of the surgery are extremely optimistic and it looks as though the reconstruction will be as close to perfect as any reconstruction can be.   

The cost was one twentieth what it would have been in Canada and one hundredth of what it would have been in the Excited States.  

Had the detachment had happened while we were at sea there was nothing could be done.  I would be blind in one eye without recourse.

I tally this one under the BIG WIN category.

My thanks to Dr. Nadia Essakalli and the staff at Clinique Beausejour.  I am in your debt.