Website of sailing yacht Tokomaru2's circumnavigation of the world
Crew: Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon
Casablanca September 2001
This first ‘newsletter’ comes to you from Casablanca. We’ve been in Morocco
for a week, and already Spain
seem far away. After some picturesque
and historic fishing ports (eg birth place of Vasco da Gama: Sines) on the west
coast of Portugal south of Lisbon, a strong wind delivered us rather violently
around Cape St Vincent and into the Algarve.
Here we stayed in one or two fancy marinas and a wild anchorage in the
sand dunes near Faro. Back in Spain again to Rota, Cadiz
and (last port in Europe) Barbate. We sailed from Barbate to Tangier (only 25
miles) into a very different scene. We
tied up to a raft of four other yachts in the harbour crammed with fishing
boats. Then followed lengthy formalities
with harbour officials, customs, immigration and police, until at last we had
our shore passes to come and go through the port gate.
Tangier is an action-packed city. Traffic hurtles along, people throng the
pavements or weave amongst the cars mopeds and bikes, boys rush around with
carts full of eggs or bread or whatever, and everything manages to avoid
collision. The city must once have looked elegant, but now
the buildings are faded and the pavements crumbling. This air of decay contrasts strangely with all
the bustling energy of the place. The
narrow lanes of the medina (the old Arab quarter) overflow with the finest
fresh produce, including olives, nuts and dates, huge bunches of leafy fragrant
mint and coriander, and pyramids of bright yellow pears. Down near the port, people are grilling
sardines over charcoal. And anywhere in
Tangier you can sit in a café sipping mint tea and watch it all going on.
After three days of this, we left at dawn
on Sat. 17 Sept for the 170 mile passage to Casablanca, hoping to make it before dark on
Sunday. But the northerly wind went
south and we tacked into headwinds all night and most of Sunday – very
uncomfortable. We finally motored into
the huge port at midnight, past the commercial ships and the navy, and all the
way to the fishing harbour where we are tied to a dilapidated (and
rat-infested!) quay. From here we have a
great view of the spectacular new mosque, Casablanca’s
finest monument, beautifully floodlit at night.
The only sign re. events in New York and Washington
that we have noticed is the four or five policemen outside the American
Language Centre in Casablanca. We were in Barbate on 11 Sept. and I happened to phone Tom as
events were unfolding on the news at home.
I went back to the boat and we listened to the world service and then
dug out our TV and saw the Spanish news.
The next day we sailed to Morocco. Since then we’ve seen a few newspapers: The Independent, Le Figaro and a special
edition of Newsweek. But it does seem
all rather remote. The coverage and
analysis in UK
must be pretty constant. People here are
horrified at the scale and audacity of the attack. People we encounter: officials, taxi drivers,
fishermen, traders would mention it in the first days and express shock and
disbelief. But no one wants the US to retaliate
and the thought of it makes everyone nervous.
Life goes on in Casablanca, not quite so frenzied as Tangier,
but pretty lively. The city is vast and seems to go on forever, with some very
splendid boulevards in the central part and classy cafes for
people-watching. The harbour is near the
old medina which overflows with shops and stalls and carts, and the piles of
rubbish are worse than Hackney. The best
thing about Casa (as they call it here) is the Mosque Hassan II. It is a haven of peace and order, space and
light, rising up from the squalor of the nearby slums and shanty towns, built
right on the sea front. We walked up
there one evening, heard the sunset call
to prayer from the minaret high above, and watched as the floodlights took
effect on the marble and intricate
carving. All this, and the first glimpse
of the new moon.
Sadly we said goodbye to Neville, Nick’s
dad who’s been with us since Lisbon. And on Saturday, Tom and his girlfriend
Caroline are joining us for a week.
We’ll sail with them to El Jadida and possibly Safi.
After that, Nick and I will carry on as far as Agadir and then to cross
to Graciosa, just north of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
So, until we write again, ‘Here’s looking
at you’ !
Love from Liz and Nick