After a week at anchor in Cascais waiting for Sim to arrive we set off for Sines about 50 miles south, the home of Vasco da Gama so naturally we nipped round for a visit to pick up a few navigation tips for the voyage ahead.
From Sines the plan was to go to Lagos but we changed our minds and decided to sail to Rabat directly from Cabo san Vicente to Rabat after an overnight anchorage just round the corner of the Cape in a small bay beneath and old fort. We anchored close to the cliffs to keep out of the strong gusts which meant a sleepless night for both of us checking and rechecking the boat. We also had the chance of a swim in the crystal clear water which was surprisingly warm considering this was the Atlantic.
We set off early in the morning to cover the 205 miles to Rabat across a very busy shipping lane and did 120 miles in relatively light winds in our first day. We had to reef to slow the boat so we would arrive in Rabat in daylight and catch our first view of Africa, our second continent.
There is a sand bar across the entrance and the river up to Rabat is heavily silted so we had to call out the pilot to guide us in, at times we had less than a metre under our keel as we pushed up against the falling tide. As we passed Rabat the river banks were lined with hundreds of fishermen cheering us and shouting “Welcome to Rabat” in English, an amazing experience.
The pilot took us about 3 miles up river to Bouregreg marina in Sale, which used to be a pirate stronghold in the middle ages. Here we produced passports and boat papers for a 2 hour check in with Police and Customs. They fed me on iced mint tea and chilled figs while I was completing the paperwork, not the sort of treatment we have received anywhere else. This has proved to be a continuing experience with the people here who cant do enough to help and are so anxious that we leave with a good impression of the country – a lesson for us Brits here, they put us to shame.
The plan is to stay here and explore the souks and Kasbah’s for a few days and then make our way down the coast to Casablanca, Marrakesh (an inland trip), Safi and Agadir. From Agadir we’ll cross to Lanzarote, around 230 miles at the end of September.