Cruising Notes


Voyage Summary

Contact us

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 and Portugal 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. (Inshallah)


So, until we write again, ‘Here’s looking at you’ !


Love from Liz and Nick

Website © Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon 2008