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.

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